Arsenal got their assault on the Champions League title off to a perfect start with a 3-0 win over Spanish club Sevilla at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal broke the deadlock midway through the first half through a deflected strike from in-form Cesc Fabregas and held the lead until the break. The home side controlled the match in the second half before going further in front through a close-range strike from Robin van Persie before adding a third in stoppage time through another simple finish from substitute Eduardo da Silva. It was an impressive performance and result from Arsene Wenger’s side and will make them firm favourites to finish top of Group H, which also contains Slavia Prague and Steau Bucharest.
There was full coverage of the match on free-to-air down under and I sneaked it in before arriving just over a half-hour late for work. It was well worth it. There were two changes from the Arsenal side that started against Tottenham on the weekend, with Philippe Senderos replacing a tired Gilberto Silva at centre-back and Tomas Rosicky returning to the left-hand side at the expense of Abou Diaby.
The match was billed as a contest between two of Europe’s best attacking sides but the opening quarter of an hour or so was relatively tame. Both sides passed the ball around quite nicely but a couple of questionable long-range efforts were all each side had to show until Arsenal scored the opener out of the blue. Fabregas tried his luck again from range and his shot was flying well wide before Sevilla defender Julien Escude intervened and deflected the ball past Andreas Palop. It was the sort of goal that Frank Lampard has made famous and should probably have been given as an own goal to Escude. However, Fabregas was awarded with his sixth of the season,
The game heated up a little after the goal but Arsenal remained firmly in control. When Adebayor worked himself into an exceptional position after a burst of speed from the left, I was celebrating a second. But the eccentric striker fired horribly wide, my roommate laughed, and I sat back down. Arsenal were relatively untroubled for the rest of the half apart from one moment when Senderos failed to clear effectively in the penalty area. But Arsenal survived, and it ended 1-0 at the break.
A controlled second half
The second half started in very similar fashion to first, with Arsenal playing well with the ball and doing just enough defensively without it. A change was in order when Tomas Rosicky was forced off with a hamstring injury in the 49th minute and Diaby was brought on. Unfortunately for Rosicky, he is expected to miss at least two weeks.
Ten minutes later the lead was doubled. Arsenal won a free kick on the left and the dead ball was fired in by Fabregas, flicked on by Bacary Sagna and smashed into the back of the net from two yards out by van Persie. The second goal forced Sevilla to take the initiative as Daniel Alves started to peg back Gael Clichy and get into some good positions on the right. But while Clichy was being forced back, Sagna was having a great game, roaring up and down the right side with real verve and purpose. Sevilla may have had more of the ball but they only made one good clear opportunity that was wasted when substitute Alexander Kerzakhov failed to connect on the volley from only ten yards out.
And they were punished for that miss late on when young defender Federico Fazio gifted the ball to Alexander Hleb just outside the penalty area. Hleb slipped the ball out wide to the right and Fabregas crossed low for Eduardo, who had replaced Adebayor only minutes before, to finish. Game over, three points, and an emphatic result. The team huddle at the end of the match said it all.
Fabregas fabulous again
As you could expect from a 3-0 win against a top side, there were some great performances from the Arsenal players. Fabregas was again the best player on the field, controlling the tempo of the match and playing a large part in all three goals. He was well supported by Mathieu Flamini who had his best game of the season in the centre of midfield. The pair seemed to have a real understanding on the pitch for the first time this season and clearly outplayed the Sevilla combination of Christian Poulsen and Jose Marti. Other good performers were Sagna, who attacked and defended with real quality and Kolo Toure, who was a rock at the back when called upon.
It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means with Adebayor playing woefully at times and Senderos looking very shaky in defence. I was hoping that Adebayor, in particular, would build from his great game against Tottenham on the weekend but he seemed to support the theory from Goodplaya that he tends to deliver only when the chips are down. As for Senderos, I struggle to maintain confidence when he is on the pitch. A couple of his clearances were very poor and put the defence under immense pressure and in my opinion, Willam Gallas can’t come back soon enough.
All in all though, you can’t ask for a better start to the Champions League than a comprehensive victory over the toughest group rivals and that is exactly what the side achieved. The result will allow the boys to put the focus right back on the Premiership clash with Derby in the knowledge that a huge step has been made towards qualification to the second round, something a now Jose Mourinho-less Chelsea cannot.
What do you think?
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