Archive for October 21st, 2009

AZ Alkmaar 1 – 1 Arsenal: A Pain In The AZ

Add comment October 21st, 2009

AZ 1 – 1 Arsenal (Fabregas , Mendes da Silva 90+3)
Highlights here; Arsene’s reaction here

Credit to Ronald Koeman – his tactics last night were nothing if not innovative: spend the first eighty minutes lulling the opposition into a false sense of security, bring on Pele, and nick a last gasp equaliser.

Perhaps it wasn’t planned. And perhaps their Italian substitute was called ‘Pelle’ rather than Pele. But the nature of the sucker-punch was just as sucky and just as punchy. AZ grabbed an equaliser in a game where they’d barely threatened.

We should probably have put the game beyond them by then, but we sank to their tempo as most of the game was played out at exhibition pace. We didn’t have a great many chances aside from the goal, but still spent the majority of the match looking comfortable. Too comfortable, as it turned out.

We should have taken the lead after twenty minutes when Robin van Persie cut inside his man and fired straight at the keeper. The Dutchman made up for his miss with the assist for the eventual opener – Andrey Arshavin intercepted a loose ball and slid in Van Persie, who squared for Cesc Fabregas to tap in at the far post. It was a lovely goal.

Whilst our team performance never rose above the giddy heights of “alright”, there were impressive showing’s from Vermaelen, who nipped into tackles with the appropriate combination of technique and tenacity, and Alex Song, who is developing upper-body strength to rival most midfielders in Europe.

AZ slinked their way through the game, showing the odd bit of nice passing but without any significant goal-threat. That was right up until the closing stages, when they started chucking set pieces into our box, causing havoc. Young Vito Mannone started again, and the defence did not look reassured by his presence.

When the goal eventually came, it was via a flick on from Pelle and a stunning finish from the most glamorously-named Dutchman going, David Mendes da Silva.

It was a blow, no doubt. But we still stand a very good chance of winning the group, especially if we win our remaining home games. A point away from home in Europe is very rarely a poor result.

The disappointment at conceding a last minute equaliser was tempered by the hilarity of Liverpool conceding a last minute winner against Lyon. Thankyou, Rafa’s reds: you make us feel much, much better.

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