Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Arsenal 2-0 Standard Liege

Arsenal won Champions League Group H with something to spare after dismissing Standard Liege 2-0 at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday night.

After taking 10 points from their opening four games, Arsenal were virtually through before kick-off anyway. This result just rubber-stamped their passports for the Knockout Stages.

Arsenal were pressing after the kick-off. A goal seemed likely. It should have arrived five times in the 15th minute.

It all started when Fabregas took a corner, and Arshavin's point-blank shot was saved. Then Vela's collected the rebound and planted the ball against the post. Then Gallas had two efforts blocked by the keeper. And finally Vermaelen's vicious shot beat everyone, hit Arshavin on the line and flew wide.

On the half-hour, Gallas nudged a header over the bar from a Fabregas cross. The Frenchman clashed heads with Arshavin in executing the chance. Both players needed lengthy treatment. The Russian had gash on the top of his head and Gallas had swollen eye worthy of a heavyweight boxer.

The home side had not yet returned to 11 men when they took the lead. Given the bizarre events so far, it was relatively mundane. Vermaelen punted the ball forward towards Nasri and Landry Mulemo, the covering defender, slipped as he tried to intercept. The Frenchman pounced then lifted his shot over the keeper and into the far corner of the net at the 35th minute.

It was so nearly 2-0 a couple of minutes later. Nasri slipped a clever ball to Arshavin who drove a low shot inches past the keeper's left-hand post.

Fabregas nearly rubbed salt in the wound seconds later when he whistled a low drive across goal and beyond the far post.

On the whistle, Gibbs tapped the ball to Denilson 25 yards out. He took a touch, looked up and thumped it. Keeper Sinan Bolat, so brilliant early on, could only parry the ball into his own net. Nevertheless it was an excellent strike.

Denilson celebrates his goal

In the second half, Arsenal makes two substitutions: Gallas to Mikhail Silvestre and Nasri to Theo Walcott. However, no goals were created. At the 87th minute, Standard played with 10 men after Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez was given a red card. He had been going head to head with Fabregas.

But Fabregas was also handed a yellow card for that action.

Finally, Arsenal qualified to the next stage after winning in the first half and keeping Standard under control.

That was the only concern on a crushingly comfortable night at Emirates Stadium.
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