Arsenal got the point that Arsene Wenger thought they would from their trip to the Ukraine after only managing a 1-1 draw against Dynamo Kyiv. Despite dominating the first half the boys failed to score and were made to rely on another late William Gallas strike to salvage a point after Ismael Bangoura converted a highly dubious penalty midway through the second period.
It was actually quite an interesting game, surprising considering the way a lot of the Champions League games in Eastern Europe tend to go. It seemed like it might be a bit of a dull affair when the Arsenal team sheet came through, Wenger choosing to drop Emmanuel Eboue for Alex Song and going for a 4-5-1 formation to match that of their Ukrainian opponents. The formation switch meant that Emmanuel Adebayor was supported by Robin van Persie on the left and Theo Walcott on the right, while the usual suspects lined up in their favoured positions.
Despite Wenger’s obviously cautious approach to the match, his side created numerous opportunities in the first half and should have been at least a goal up at the break. Van Persie had an effort saved by the shins of the Kyiv goalkeeper in just the 5th minute before Adebayor somehow fired wide from twelve yards after ghosting past two challenges. It was a typical Adebayor play, fall of athleticism and awkward skill before a shot which really should have been placed in the corner was thumped wide.
Midfield in control
As well as his very early effort, van Persie blasted just wide in the 41st minute before Cesc Fabregas also got in on the act, scuffing a tame shot straight into the goalkeeper after lovely work from Adebayor and Walcott. It was virtually the last act of a half that Arsenal were firmly in control of, Denilson, Song and Fabregas controlling the centre of the park and the front three carving out some great opportunities.
When the half resumed, Arsenal almost went behind when Kyiv winger Roman Eremenko tricked his way past Gallas and thumped a low shot against Manuel Almunia’s. The Spanish keeper quickly pounced on the ball as every Kyiv man and his dog looked hungrily at ball sitting six yards out of from an empty net. An agonising moment for Dynamo and a huge let-off for the Arsenal boys.
Arsenal struggled to hit their stride in the second half as the game petered out slightly. However, it was reignited in controversial circumstances when some hesitant play by Gallas on the halfway line let Bangoura in down the right. Although the Arsenal captain came back to make a challenge the ball made its way back to Bangoura, allowing the Guinean striker to float a cross into the box. Ognjen Vukojevic and Bacary Sagna both jumped for the ball, fell in a heap on the ground, and the referee pointed to the spot.
It looked a penalty all the way on first viewing, but replies showed that Vukojevic sneakily grabbed Sagna’s shirt, hauling the Arsenal defender down on top of him in the process. Bangoura, who had been troubling both Kolo Toure and Gallas throughout the second half, stepped up to take the kick and calmly sent Almunia the wrong way. After the match, Wenger had this to say about the penalty decision:
“The penalty was very, very harsh because we are convinced the guy took Sagna with two hands and went down but the referee called it and what can you do about that.”
Not much, unfortunately. As I said before, it looked a penalty on first viewing and I don’t think we can get too mad at the referee – especially considering the one that was awarded to Mr Eboue on the weekend.
It looked like Arsenal were heading for yet another defeat to a former Soviet nation and Wenger promptly made some attacking changes. Nicklas Bendtner, that man Eboue and Carlos Vela replaced Song, Sagna and van Persie and the fresh legs enabled Arsenal to carve out a couple of late chances.
The first saw Adebayor fire a header at the keeper direct from a corner while the second saw the boys get the goal they deserved, Gallas prodding home after a lovely low cross from Walcott, Arsenal’s best player on the night. It was a lovely goal under the circumstances, Adebayor controlling well on the edge of the box before flicking it out to Walcott who put it on a plate for the best defender cum striker in the business.
The final whistle blew shortly after (a little too shortly after for Wenger’s liking) and Arsenal had collected the point that the manager had said he would be happy with. Given the nature of the match it’s a result that I was quite happy to get and will get the boys headed the right direction. After the match, Wenger was in a similar frame of mind with regards to the draw:
“My feelings are a mixture of disappointment and relief. We were a goal down with three minutes to go and we didn’t lose. At 1-0 down at least we found the resources to fight back to 1-1 because the players gave it everything.”
And he’s absolutely right. At the start of the game you probably would have settled for a draw and whenever your side scores a late equaliser you’re always going to be happier than the side that concedes it. Having said that, this was a game which should have been killed off in the first half and that should be something of a concern.
Interestingly, the man who rescued the game was perhaps the least impressed by the result, making clear his disappointment at Arsenal’s failure to beat Dynamo Kyiv:
“I don’t feel anything about my goal – I just feel about the victory. I’m very disappointed, like the players and the manager. I scored a goal but nothing else.”
I think it’s good to here that sort of thing coming from Gallas. He’s copped a lot of flak with regards to his ability to captain the side but when he makes statements like that you really do get the feeling that his desire to win is as strong as anybody else in the squad. He also deserves credit for the way he is able to pop up with crucial late goals and his tendency to do so may be invaluable as the season rolls on.
Overall, this was an OK result and performance. Theo Walcott showed again just what sort of player he is becoming, standing up to some really tough challenges before providing his second assist in as many games for the club. Alex Song did well in his first start for the season, providing the sort of bite that Denilson just can’t. I get the feeling that Song may become a vital member of the side going forward in the Champions League, especially in away games where Wenger tends to fall back on the safer 4-5-1 option.
The real worry to come out of this game was the collective performance of Gallas and Toure. They are still not clicking and I just can’t see why Wenger has reverted to play this combination when the Gallas-Johan Djourou partnership was working so much more effectively. I have nothing against Kolo Toure personally, I just feel that Djourou did nothing to warrant losing his place in the side and since he has come in, the Ivorian has done very little to warrant keeping his spot. I can’t see it happening, but I’d like to see Djourou come in to the side against Bolton this weekend.
That’s about it for today. Hope you enjoyed reading and I’d love to hear what you thought of the game in the comments. Cheers.
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