Arsenal 1 Man Utd 1: Sagna’s Stupidity Ensures a Share of the Spoils
I’ve been having serious constraints blogging recently because of my Internet connectivity issues but on days like this, the good ol’ WordPress for BlackBerry had to come in handy.
With Wigan’s late capitulation against that lot from White Hart Lane coupled with Chelsea’s halftime lead over Swansea, Arsenal had it all to do against the newly crowned champions, Manchester United, on a warm afternoon at the Emirates.
This season, Arsenal’s record against their fellow rivals at the top has been nothing short of appalling. Prior to this game, they had managed only one win against 10-man Tottenham as well as draws against Manchester City (away) and Everton (home and away). The rest had been disappointing defeats.
Arsenal put up a shambolic outing against Fulham but got maximum points from the encounter. However, Arsene Wenger chose to tweak his squad, bringing on Kieran Gibbs for Nacho Monreal with Lukas Podolski replacing the suspended Olivier Giroud.
After honoring the champions with the customary Guard of Honor, the boo boys started gearing up for the game’s pantomime villain, Robin van Persie.
Arsenal began the game like a house on fire with the Gunners midfield closing the opposition further up the pitch. RVP lost the ball in midfield, causing Arsenal to launch a swift attack through Podolski and Rosicky. When the Czech maestro teed up Theo Walcott with a delicious through ball, the pacey Englishman was marginally offside but he finished his chance aplomb, bringing an end to his much talked-about goal drought.
Aaron Ramsey fashioned a chance for Santi Cazorla and the diminutive magician wasted no time in blasting a left-footed drive goalwards. Man Utd’s shot stopper, David De Gea, parried the ball to safety.
RVP had his first sniff at goal with a half chance that was blasted over the bar, much to the delight of the Emirates faithful. Phil Jones was brandished a yellow card for a rash lounge at Mikel Arteta but Walcott’s free kick was an aberration. Jones neglected his defensive duties and made a lot of ground to be on the end of a van Persie flick but his header glamced wide off the mark.
Van Persie incurred the wrath of the crowd when the scythed Per Mertesacker down with a careless challenge, earning himself a booking as well. Arsenal hit Man Utd on the break with another counter attack with Ramsey at the thick of things but he probably made a wrong decision in feeding Podolski on the left when Walcott was free. The German with a left foot as powerful as Thor’s hammer fired a piledriver at De Gea but the Spanish goalie saved the shot.
Luis Nani exposed Bacary Sagna’s defensive frailties on the left hand side before flicking a cross to van Persie but Szczesny saved the header at point blank range using his head, which ultimately caused him some discomfort as he hit the deck with consummate ease.
Just when we thought that Sagna was having a bad day, it became a whole lot worse when the French defender inexplicably chose to gift the ball to van Persie and in his attempt of redemption he conceded a blatant foul in the box, leaving Phil Dowd with no choice but to point to the spot. Szczesny guessed right but the power on van Persie’s shot was too much for the Pole.
All Arsenal’s good work in the first half undone by the sheer stupidity of one of the most experienced lads in the squad. A shameful familiar story.
As expected, Arsenal began the second half with more urgency with Ramsey instigating another attack before feeding Rosicky. Little Mozart chose to use the outside of his boot to fire the ball miserably wide.
With Arsenal failing to take the attacking initiative, Man Utd almost went two up when van Persie received a pass on the left from Shrek before drilling the ball into the box but there was no player on white to strike the killer blow.
Man Utd gained some momentum and pushed on for the goal that would settle the tie. With Sagna clearly struggling on the right, Patrice Evra made a rear foray forward and lofted a cross for Shrek but his header was saved by Szczesny.
Arsene Wenger replaced the vibrant Rosicky with Jack Wilshere to add some steel to the midfield. Arsenal had another chance at goal when Antonio Valencia handled the ball outside the 18-yard box but Cazorla’s free kick was pretty damn poor.
With Podolski having a peripheral outing, Wenger replaced the ineffectual German with Gervinho. Arsenal continued to press on but Man Utd held the fort with some last-ditch tackling from Phil Jones. Wenger threw his last ace in the deck by bringing on the Ox for Ramsey.
It was gung-ho stuff from Arsenal as they attacked with urgency, leaving gaping holes at the back but I was awed when Sagna, Mertesacker and Koscielny slid at the same time to block Shrek’s attempt on goal.
Gervinho created a chance for Cazorla but the Spaniard’s effort was saved by the impregnable De Gea in goal. Right at the death, Man Utd would have grabbed all three points when Shrek created a clear-cut chance for Hugh Giggs Hefner but the old hag chose to dally on the ball with the goal at his mercy.
In the end, a point gained from a game against the champions may not be as bad as it seems, bearing in mind that the Gunners are still within touching distance of a Champions League qualifying place.
With this in mind, I really can’t wait to watch the long-awaited game in hand between Chelsea and Tottenham. That would be one hell of a cup final.