Arsenal scored their second win from two Champions League matches and continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 1-0 win away to Romanian champions Steaua Bucharest overnight.
Arsene Wenger’s side survived some scares, most notably a miscued effort by Steaua Bucharest substitute Victoras Iacob, before Robin van Persie won the match in the 76th minute, finishing confidently from Emmanuel Adebayor’s low cross. The Romanians put in a good effort at home but on the balance of play Arsenal were deserved winners. You can see all the highlights from the match here.
Despite the low scoreline both teams made plenty of good opportunities, including a disallowed goal in the opening minutes from Valentin Badea and an unbelievable miss from Cesc Fabregas from no more than six yards out only moments later. Arsenal may have been unfortunate to be denied an opening goal on 40 minutes when Gael Clichy’s deflected cross was carried over the line by Bucharest goalkeeper Robinson Zapata. Despite the protests of Adebayor the ball was adjudged not too have crossed the line by the referees, and even after looking at the replay numerous times, it is still hard to tell.
A late, late winner
Things got a little bit crazy after half-time when Zapata saved from an Adebayor header quite unintentionally with his legs, despite attempting to punch the ball clear. Then Manuel Almunia went wandering out of his area and only avoided the embarassment of being chipped from long range by Steaua captain Dica when Kolo Toure scrambled back to head off the line. The incident immediately provoked memories in my mind of Jens Lehmann being chipped against Panathinaikos a few seasons ago.
Substitute Iacob should have won the match for Bucharest when he broke down the left-hand side, but in his attempts to curl his shot around Almunia he failed to make good contact and the ball scuffed over the bar. He was punished minutes later when Adebayor broke down the left for Arsenal and crossed the ball low into the penalty area. His centre was meant for Fabregas but the Spaniard missed it and the ball fell to van Persie who smashed home his finish into the top left corner to seal the points. The Romanians had put in a good fight, but as Wenger commented after the game, Arsenal were deserved winners after generally being in control of the match.
“Steaua defended very well and we couldn’t find the openings, so we had to show patience. The turning point was maybe when [Iacob] was clean through and missed because I thought we were in control from then.”
I actually thought that this was a very good performance from Arsenal. Apart from a couple of scares I felt that they were in complete control and fully deserved the 1-0 win. Adebayor, Fabregas and Alexander Hleb were a constant threat throughout the match and van Persie showed again how important he is to the side with his second deciding goal in as many matches. While things looked a little flat at times on the weekend against West Ham, this was certainly not the case against Steaua as the attackers were able to carve open the Romanians defence on a number of occasions.
Defence must get credit
Tellingly, this is the fifth match in a row that the Arsenal defence has kept a clean sheet. Credit must go to the likes of Kolo Toure, Manuel Almunia, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and the sometimes uncomfortable Philippe Senderos for this achievement. A lot of people have been talking about Manchester United’s superb defence but Arsenal’s record is just as good and they are doing it while playing flowing, attacking football. The energy of guys like Clichy and Sagna to get up and down the flanks is just astonishing and I truly believe that Arsenal possess the two best full-backs in the Premiership at the moment.
Then there is Kolo Toure. He has gone relatively unnoticed so far this season, but Toure’s performances have been nothing short of sensational. With Gallas out injured he has had to step up as the captain and chief organiser of the defence and has done this with great effect. The effort to get back and clear off the line after Almunia’s error was something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before and gave a perfect example of just how well he is reading the game at the moment.
In summary, another three points and another solid good performance from Arsene Wenger’s side. What’s more, they will travel home from Romania in the knowledge that another win at home to Slavia Prague in the next Champions League will all but put them through to the next round. Before you go, spare a thought for Steaua manager Massimo Pedrazzini who, as I mentioned yesterday, is set to lose his job after the loss to Arsenal. Ouch.
What do you think?
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