Arsenal 1 Monaco 3: Same Sh*t, Different Season
As expected, Arsenal failed to top their group and there were going to be some ramifications. It seemed like deja vu all over again as the Gunners were set to get a double-legged affair against the Bayerns, FC Barcelonas and Real Madrids od this world. Guess what? They got AS Monaco, the ‘lowest’ ranked knockout phase team. When a team tops their Champions League group that had FC Porto, Benfica and Zenit scoring just four goals and conceding one, you’d know that you stand and outside chance against them but when you hear that they had conceded just three goals in their last 17 games, you know you have your work cut out for you.
Arsene Wenger’s lineup seemed strong on paper to say the least but many were surprised to see Kieran Gibbs replace a Nacho Monreal that was in the form of his life. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain returned to full fitness and could only make do with a place on the bench and Danny Welbeck was preferred to Theo Walcott. The English striker had the first opportunity to break the deadlock when he received a lovely pass from Santi Cazorla but he blasted his effort over the bar. Monaco did well to soak pressure and contain the ball but Laurent Koscielny managed to drift forward before firing a shot that was easy pickings for Subasic in goal. Mesut Ozil tried to nick a pass that was behind Alexis Sanchez but the Chilean managed to wrap his foot round the ball to send it over. Arsenal’s pressure continued as Hector Bellerin drilled a ball for Olivier Giroud that sent the ball over. He was going to have a shocker.
Against the run of play, Geoffery Kondogbia was afforded acres of space and he picked his spot before firing a shot that was deflected in by Per Mertesacker. That effort had Pascal Cygan written all over it.
Arsenal looked to begin the second half with all urgency with Alexis going around a defender before cutting the ball back to Giroud but the French forward blasted his tame effort wide off the mark. Cazorla swung in a cross from a free kick and Giroud had the entire goal to aim at but he nodded the ball over the bar, much to the frustration of the Emirates faithful. With Arsenal failing to take the initiative to level the contest, Monaco showed them how to finish when Anthony Martial covered some ground before feeding Dimitar Berbatov that didn’t need a second invitation to shoot. The Bulgarian fired a missile that waltzed past David Ospina like he wasn’t there.
With the Gunners losing 2-0 at home, it was only normal for them to adopt a gung-ho approach but when you have a striker that blasts the ball over the bar from less than five yards out, then you know it’s going to be one of those f*cking nights. Sanchez fired a shot that was parried into Giroud’s path by Subasic but the French forward blasted his shot over with a gaping goal to aim at. Wenger felt he had seen enough of the misfiring Giroud for one night, so he summoned Walcott in his stead.
Monaco almost made it three when Martial had a clear-cut chance but his shot was saved by Ospina. Sanchez sent Walcott through with a neat ball and the Englishman’s shot was saved by Subasic. The rebound fell to Welbeck that deemed it fit to blast the ball at a Walcott that had hit the deck when the net was meant to be a better option. Definitely one of those nights.
Wenger brought on the Ox for Francis Coquelin in his bid to salvage something from the game. After a half chance from Alexis, Chamberlain offered the fans a glimmer of hope when he curled in one of the sweetest finishes you’d ever see. Taking a 2-1 deficit to Monaco simply meant that the Gunners needed to score two goals in France to go through.
However, relief turned to anguish Ox lost the ball in midfield and with the defensive line so high up, a pacey player like Yannick Carrasco got in behind the defense and placed the ball past Ospina (the goalie should have done better) to make it 3-1. Game done and dusted.
This is the point where I start ranting and singling out individual performances for criticism but I have a 9.00am meeting at work.
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