Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Sayonara Shakhtar

Arsenal cruised to another Champions League victory last night at the Emirates, where they easily dispatched the Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. The Gunners strolled to a 5-1 win, with former Arsenal man Eduardo grabbing a late consolation for his new team.

It was an assured performance from Wenger's men on the night. I was expecting the match to be a bit closer but Arsenal soon put any fears I had to rest. The opening few minutes were cagey, as both sides appeared to be testing each other out but it wasn't long before Arsenal capitalised and took the lead. After the Shakhtar keeper spilled a corner (doing his best Fabianski impression), Djourou pounced on the loose ball and poked it into the path of Alex Song, who ambitiously attempted a Cristiano Ronaldo-like 'Rabona' shot, which deflected off the defender and bounced kindly into the back of the net to give us a 1-0 lead after 19 minutes. It was pretty funny to see Song attempt such a move but he got the result he wanted, a good goal in the end. I think Song had a decent night, he made no mistakes that I could see, but I do worry that with his increase in confidence over the last 18 months or so, he maybe thinks he's a bit better than he really is, especially going forward in attack. I just have concerns that his constant need to join in on the attack will some day hurt him, as the back four becomes instantly vulnerable when Song leaves his position. But hey, I have no complaints about him until he makes that mistake; Song is a quality player for us. Speaking of the defence, I was very impressed with our pair of centre backs last night, especially Djourou. I know the guy has had injury problems over the last few years, but I have always been a fan of Johan and it has irritated me in the past when Wenger would go with Silvestre over Djourou, for one example; beyond frustrating. He performed well last night with Squillaci, as Shakhtar looked pretty toothless in attack overall. They even made Fabianski look good, who to be fair to him made a very good save in the early minutes of the second half. More games like that in the near future please.

Arsenal continued to press after the first goal and doubled their lead just before half time with a beautiful goal from Samir Nasri. An Alex Song cross was expertly controlled by our young Frenchman, who calmly got the ball down and lashed a shot past the helpless Shakhtar keeper for a two goal lead. Nasri has impressed many fans so far this season, as he continues to carry over his form from last season. The guy can't put a foot wrong. Leading 2-0 at the half, we were cruising and the game was pretty much done and dusted.

After Fabianski's save from Adriano just after the restart, Arsenal took control of the game and never relinquished it. With just over half an hour to go in the game, Djourou was brought down in the box and Captain Cesc stepped up to take the penalty, comfortably scoring from the spot to put the game to bed, 3-0. I was glad Wenger took the decision to start Fabregas and he deserved his goal. You could sense he was a bit rusty early on in the match, which is to be expected after a three week break, but Cesc quickly returned to his normal playmaking self. Denilson replaced him after the penalty, where I expect Wenger had an eye on this weekend's game against Man City; we all want the captain to be fit and rested ahead of that crucial clash.

After going ahead by three goals courtesy of Cesc, the floodgates opened up. Jack Wilshere, who played his last game for a couple of weeks ahead of his impending suspension, had a brilliant outing and thoroughly deserved his goal. After some good work with Rosicky, Jack took a rather heavy touch but still maintained enough poise to calmly lob the ball over Shakhtar's keeper to make it 4-0. Probably the best goal of the night, it was so well taken, and the build up was vintage Arsenal. Only minutes later it was 5-0. Nasri chipped the ball over the Shakhtar defence into the path of Chamakh, who after glancing at the linesmen rolled the ball into the corner of the net for a deserved goal. Everybody including Chamakh thought he was offside, but thanks to a great decision by the linesmen the goal stood and the game was over. Nasri's pass was a thing of beauty too.

To cap off the evening, the returning Eduardo entered the fray for Shakhtar and scored an absolute peach with eight minutes to go. An innocuous ball entered the Arsenal box where Squillaci couldn't quite get to it, but Eduardo connected perfectly with a superb effort which flew past Fabianski to make it 5-1. It was a really nice moment for our former number 9, as the fans, Arsenal and Shakhtar, rose to applaud Eduardo for his well taken goal. It really is a shame that we got rid of him this summer, as he obviously still has feelings for the club and many fans still hold him in high regards. I hope he can resume his career in Ukraine and find success there.

All in all it was a good night of football. Arsenal are now 3 from 3 in the group stage, and barring any meltdowns we look sure to make it into the knockout stages for another year. Next up is a tough trip to Manchester to face Mancini's City. I will be at work unfortunately (GRRRRR) but hopefully I can make it to the pub for the second half. Fingers crossed!

Thanks for reading.

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