Monday, 29 August 2011

Arsenal recover to secure Champions League spot

Second half goals from captain Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott saw Arsenal come from behind on the night to secure their place in the Champions League group stages.

Despite all the pressure surrounding Arsene Wenger and his side, Arsenal's second half performance was a reminder not to write off his young side. With injuries and sales to key players, many predicted Arsenal would fail to overcome Udinese despite their one goal lead, and after Di Natale had given Udinese a deserved lead many expected Arsenal to wilt under the extreme pressure and heat in Italy, however their second half performance not only defied their form but the question marks over their heads with Aaron Ramsey in particular dominating the midfield, proving yet again what a fantastic young player he is.

Udinese's captain Antonio Di Natale had levelled the tie on aggergate heading home superbly from a Pinzi cross, however Arsenal turned it around with a much improved second half performance with Van Persie finishing comfortably after Gervinho had done superbly, as well as Walcott getting in behind Udinese to beat the impressive Samir Handonvic.Arsenal's two goals were sandwiched by a Di Natale penalty miss, as Wojciech Szczesny pulled off a quite spectacular save, and with the game level at this point, if the Italian had scored then Arsenal's progression wouldn't have been as comfortable.

Both sides came into the game with similar problems, with Udinese like Arsenal losing key players in Cristian Zapata, Gokan Inhler and most notably Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona, and after a close first leg, in which Udinese were unlucky not to pinch an away goal, the closeness of the first half was to be expected, with both sides taking the game to each other in a very lively start.

The first real chance of note fell to Udinese as Di Natale got ahead of the Arsenal centre half Johan Djourou to turn Maurico Isla's cross against the near post. However it was Arsenal, who should've taken the lead, through their first leg scorer Walcott.

Gervinho did superbly well to engineer an oppourtunity, and superbly laid the ball of for Walcott who faced with just Handonovic and the goal smashed his shot into the chest of the Slovianen keeper, who then expertely repelled Van Persie's rebound.

With Udinese growing in confidence, the Italian side opened the scoring just before half time, with their captain Di Natale heading superbly over Szczesny in the Arsenal goal.

Wenger replaced the ineffectual Emmanuel Frimpong with Tomas Rosicky in an attacking and bold move that paid dividend for the under pressure manager, as his side levelled early in the second half. The impressive Gervinho again caused havoc down the Udinese left, and squared well for Van Persie who samshed home superbly.

Minutes later, with Udinese needing two goals to progress, they were literally handed the chance to half their needed goals, as Thomas Vermaelan handed from a uncleared corner resulting in a penalty for the home side. Di Natale's penalty however was expertely saved from Szczesny who diving to his right pulled off an incredible one handed save.

With the frustration evident Udinese's temper got the better of them and were lucky not to be reduced to ten men as was fortunate not to be sent off as his elbow on Walcott went unoticed. However Walcott had the final say as he and Sagna linked up brilliantly down the left hand side, who when one on one with Handanovic finished superbly.

The final whistle came as a huge relief to Wenger as his Arsenal side confirmed their status in the group stage of the Champions League.