Away match Champions League football has always been a painful experience for Arsenal fans. It took us years to fully master it, so when we beat the French Champions 1-2 at a hostile ground, you’re not going to get too many complaints from me. The only given in the Champions League is you beat everyone at home. Each point outside a draw away is a bonus. We weren’t at our best for large patches last night, but we showed a determined attitude to fight back from a goal down and hold out for the win.
The game started off quite badly, Diaby picked up a booking after 22 seconds which was pretty daft. The tackle was a bit reckless, and though he came out with the ball… this is European football. Any hint of a raised stud is going to end in a coloured card.
Things took an even worse turn 8 minutes later when Thomas Vermaelen was ushering Belhanda away from the box. For some inexplicable reason, he felt the need to go for the complicated slide tackle, he took the player before the ball and the ref rightly blew for the penalty kick. Very sloppy defending from our captain especially as Belhanda wasn’t through on goal.
The Montpellier star man stepped up for the penalty and chipped it down the middle. I hate those penalties. When strikers do that in Sunday league, even when they’re on your team… you just think… ‘c*ck’. I thought the same last night. Apologies for being so crude before breakfast.
This goal sparked Arsenal into life. It didn’t take long for us to find our flow. Diaby fed a ball into Giroud, he laid it into the path of Podolski… the German took it in his stride and slotted it past the keeper. A super finish from a man finding his feet in top class football.
The goals weren’t finished though. No sooner had the game restarted, we’d scored again. This time Jenkisnson picked the ball outwide, slipped in a perfect low cross which Gervinho bundled past the keeper. The Ivorian doesn’t do artsy… but he seems to have found a way of putting the ball in the net so far this season which is a big positive for us.
The second half was a different story. Montpellier picked up on the positive vibes of the crowd and really controlled the game. It wasn’t pretty football at times and we were dominated for large parts. What did make me happy was always having two midfielders sitting in front of the back four. So many times last season this wouldn’t happen. Though you don’t like to see your team under pressure, you don’t mind seeing them tested against talented players. Again, I didn’t feel like we’d concede.
There were two talking points. The first came when Diaby put in a very bad challenge in the box that the referee waved away. A very favourable decision. The best chance of the second half fell to Belhanda. Mertesacker lunged in at him in the box 7 yards out, he missed, Belhanda only had to hit it anywhere at the keeper, but he didn’t, he smashed it into Mannone’s hands.
The game fizzled out and we took our first scalp of the competition.
We won ugly, we defended solidly and we came away with the desired outcome. I don’t think much more needs to be said about it. The big game is this Sunday against City. We’ll have both had the same amount of rest, except you’d imagine City probably worked harder against a better team but had to suffer the indignity of a late Madrid goal that defeated them. We’ll have to be far better on Sunday. We’ll have to get some of our Southampton swagger back and we’ll have to create chances. I’m confident we can do something providing we provide the midfield with a defence they can feel confident in.
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