Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Arsenal vs Sparta Prague - 2nd Half Review

First half Review

Arsenal beat Sparta Prague 3-0 in the home leg of their Champions League qualifying round, to easily make the group stages. Goals from Tomasz Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas and Eduardo da Silva cleaned up the Czech team, who's normally influential (and controversial) captain, Tomas Repka, had little effect on the game.

Arsenal began the second half without making any substitutions, instead sticking with the side which had almost completely deprived Sparta Prague of chances in the first half. However, Sparta Prague came out much stronger in the second, dominating the early minutes with lots of possession in the attacking third.

After winning a corner, a Sparta player sent the ball in, almost resulting in a Robin van Persie own goal, which was well saved by Almunia. Minutes later, Pavel Horvath took a nice dive in the eighteen yard box, appealing for a penalty. The replays showed no contact at all, and the referee saw nothing amiss.

Arsenal still had some possession though, and Theo Walcott tried to add Arsenal's second with an optimistic drive from a good 30 yards, which went well over and to the right of the post, never troubling Postulka. Tempers rose a bit as Tomas Repka's first significant contribution to the match was a yellow card for dissent when one of his teammates didn't receive a free kick after an admittedly dubious looking challenge.

Sparta Prague continued to press however, and in the 57th minute, Rezek played a nice ball in, which was Almunia reached just in time to smother the attack. After the distribution however, a slip in concentration from Phillipe Senderos gave Sparta a good chance, but the resulting cross was cleared by the recovering Senderos, and the resulting corner ended up in the hands of Manuel Almunia.

Because of similar moments of uncertainty in the Arsenal defense, Sparta actually managed more chances than us in the beginning of the second half, but good recoveries made it so that Almunia was not troubled in goal. It was clear to Arsene Wenger, though, that his side needed some urgency injected in it, so Robin van Persie was taken off in favor of Emmanuel Adebayor and Diaby - who had performed admirably in the midfield - was taken off for the young spaniard, Cesc Fabregas.

A few minutes later, Jan Kolar replaced Rezek for Sparta Prague, and Denilson replaced goalscorer Tomasz Rosicky for Arsenal. the subs for both teams brought purpose to their sides, as Fabregas put a little bit too much weight on a through ball to Adebayor. In the 78th minute Kolar had the ball stolen off his foot by Clichy in the nick of time when it seemed sure that he would score a goal.

It wasn't long before Fabregas had an even greater effect, scoring from 15 yards out after Eduardo brilliantly cut through the Sparta defense and cut back a pass which Fabregas stabilized, and then shot into the back of the net. Minutes later Walcott received a yellow card for a push into the back of a Sparta defender, and Sparta seemed to be after a goal, when Kolar was once again dispossessed by Clichy in the penalty area.

However, the fun was soon over for Sparta Prague as Husek got a yellow for a shirt pull on Adebayor. Just minutes before the end of the match, Eduardo finally found the net. Fabregas supplied Denilson with a nice pass, after which he played the ball to Adebayor, got it back, and crossed the ball right into the path of the onrushing Croatian-Brazilian who made no mistake from a few yards out.

So Arsenal made it 5-0 on aggregate in their qualifying match, making it into the lucrative group stages of the Champions League after a convincing performance against the tough Czech side!!!