Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Arsenal vs Sparta Prague - 1st Half Review

Arsenal dominated the first half of our Champions League qualifier against Sparta Prague, as they went to the dressing room 1-0 up. Sparta Prague was limited to only one major chance, as Arsenal kept the lion's share of the possession, knowing that they were up 3-0 on aggregate after winning the away leg 2-0, with goals from Cesc Fabregas and Alex Hleb who were both rested today, starting on the bench.

An early short back pass from Justin Hoyte gave Almunia a bit of a scare, but he managed to come out in time to clear the ball - one wonders if Jens Lehmann would have been able to do the same. Arsenal's goal came in the 8th minute Tomasz Rosicky slotted home after a brilliant cutback from Theo Walcott, who has been troubling the Sparta Prague defenders all game with his blistering pace.

In the 19th Robin van Persie should have made it two after a great cross from new signing Eduardo, but couldn't steer the ball towards the goal after stretching to reach it. Instead he steered the ball into the ground from about a yard out, after which it bounced over the crossbar.

Soon after, in the 25th minute, Sparta came close after Libor Dosek supplied Marek Kulic, who's shot was blocked, resulting in a corner, which was promptly wasted. 4 minutes later, the first card of the match was shown to Kulic after a rough tackle on Justin Hoyte. Robin van Persie took a teasing free kick which was barely cleared by the Sparta defense for a corner. The corner however, was not delivered as nicely, and ended up right in the hands of Sparta goalkeeper Tomas Postulka.

In the 33rd minute, Sparta had another rare chance, as Pavel Horvath shot just wide of the post. However, it looked as though Almunia would have had the ball covered had it been on target. Just a minute later though, Jan Rezek was supplied a brilliant ball from the midfield as Gael Clichy was caught out. He wasted Sparta's best chance of the match after he successfully lobbed the ball over the hands of the onrushing Almunia, only to see it go just wide of the upright.

Arsenal was back to its domination towards the end of the half, with Robin van Persie supplying a brilliant pass to Kolo Toure in the penalty box. Toure had no sense of urgency however, and took a few too many touches, allowing the ball to be stolen away by the Sparta Prague defense. This was the last of the big chances for either side, as Arsenal will look to begin the second half, sure of qualifying for the Champions League group stages.

Second Half Review