Arsenal 3-0 Sparta Prague Match Report
Arsenal beat Sparta Prague 3-0 in the second leg of their Champions League qualifier in a match that saw Eduardo da Silva score his first goal for his new club. Tomas Rosicky had opened the scoring in the 7th minute with a clinical finish from a Theo Walcott cross and Cesc Fabregas fired home after some superb build up by Eduardo before the Croatian rounded off the scoring. The clinical victory meant that Arsenal won the tie 5-0 and ensured their passage into the group stages of Europe’s most prestigious competition. The draw takes place later today and Arsenal will be one of the eight top seeded teams along with AC Milan, Barcelona, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United. Just looking at the format of the draw if Arsenal get lucky they could have it as easy as Benfica, Steaua Bucharest and Slavia Prague and if they don’t it could be as difficult as Valencia, Stuttgart and Rangers. Eek.
Anyway, back to the game. There were five changes to the side that took care of Manchester City on Saturday with Philippe Senderos, Theo Walcott and Eduardo returning and Abou Diaby and Justin Hoyte making their first appearances of the season. Due to Senderos’ return, Gilberto Silva formed a central midfield partnership with Diaby whilst Eduardo partnered Robin van Persie up front. There was much speculation about whether or not Arsene Wenger would use the match to rest a few key players and looking at the changes it appears that way, but in all reality this was the best team at Wenger’s disposal aside from two notable absentees in Fabregas and Alexander Hleb.
The tie was virtually over after Rosicky fired home early on with the type of finish so typical of the great Robert Pires. Walcott’s little move to create space was followed by a marvellous low ball that Rosicky dispatched with great confidence. But in a moment displaying the respect the Czech has to his old club, Rosicky refused to celebrate. The goal really killed the game off as a spectacle but still gave the likes of Diaby and Hoyte to dust off some cobwebs and attempt to build towards match fitness. I thought Diaby had a particularly useful first half, consistently finding space with neat turns and showing good awareness of his surroundings. I felt he held the ball for too long at times during the match and his passing was a little bit off, but I’m sure those flaws will be ironed out with some more game time. Gilberto and Diaby were a good midfield combination and hardly put a foot wrong defensively but in all reality, they were rarely tested by a Sparta Prague side that seemed to have already accepted the defeat.
Fresh substitutes force late goals
Not much happened in the match until van Persie, Diaby and Walcott were replaced by Adebayor, Fabregas and Denilson respectively. Although he was one of the three who were replaced, I thought Walcott had a very encouraging game. He was a little bit hit and miss with his dribbling skills but the pace he showed was thrilling and when he did create space for himself his delivery into the strikers was consistently good. The shape of the team seemed to change to a 4-3-3 after the substitutions, and with Eduardo and the three fresh players doing most of the attacking, it wasn’t long before a second goal was scored. Eduardo, who moved to the left of the front three, collected a pass and skipped delightfully round his marker before crossing to Fabregas who smashed home after a fine first touch.
Eduardo looked more comfortable in this position on the left and it seemed to me that he really enjoyed buzzing around Adebayor, feeding off his headers and flicks. I thought he struggled to connect well with van Persie in the first half, but that may have had more to do with the tempo of the game being much lower when van Persie was on the field. Things were sewn up just a few minutes later when Adebayor combined well with Denilson before a fine cross was cleverly turned home by Eduardo. It was great to see the Croatian score his first goal for the club and you could see in the players celebrations just how happy they were for him. Three goals on the night, five goals to none in the tie and qualification to the Champions League completed with the minimum of fuss. You couldn’t ask for more, really.
What do you think?