Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Steaua Bucharest vs. Arsenal: Champions League Match Review

Match Preview

Arsenal became the first team to beat Steaua Bucharest in Romania today, thanks to a left-footed goal from Robin van Persie. The gunners kept their top spot in Group H on six points, three points ahead of nearest rivals Sevilla (who we beat 3-0 at the Emirates) and Slavia Prague. Steaua are on the bottom now, having yet to win any points.

The victory was hard-fought, and it seemed at points as though a goal would never come. Steaua defended brilliantly, with Eugen Baciu performing especially well. Nonetheless, a pull-back from Emmanuel Adebayor (who had been a doubt for the game) resulted in a Robin van Persie goal, securing three points for Arsene Wenger's boys.

Steaua Bucharest: Robinson Zapata; Eugen Baciu, Ifeany Emeghara, Petre Marin, Ionut Rada; Nicolae Dica, Banel Nicolita, Petre Ovidiu; Valentin Badea, Adrian Neaga, Romeo Surdu

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, Gael Clichy; Alex Hleb, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Emmanuel Eboue; Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie

Both teams started well, and after only five minutes, Badea headed off-target after meeting a cross from Romeo Surdu. Three minutes later, Surdu offered up another great cross, which was headed into the back of the net by Badea, but ruled out for offsides.

Arsenal heeded this warning, and almost immediately scored a goal following the restart. Alex Hleb found Cesc Fabregas with a cut-back, but the in-form midfielder shot over Zapata's crossbar with a disappointing effort.

Emmanuel Adebayor put a lot of pressure on Steaua's backline, cutting the ball across Steau's six-yard box, only to find that nobody was there. However, while Arsenal were putting pressure on the Romanians, they could be accused of once again trying to walk the ball into the back of the net.

In the 31st minute Robin van Persie found Emmanuel Adebayor in the box, but the Togolese striker opted to cross rather than shoot when he had plenty of space.

Arsenal nearly had their first goal when a deflected cross from Gael Clichy was acrobatically kept out by Zapata. The Colombian was adjudged to have kept the ball out of the net, although it was a close call. I couldn't quite tell even from the replays, but at least 90% of the ball was over the line.

Zapata followed this up with another great save, as he silenced Mathieu Flamini to end the first half.

Manuel Almunia almost proved to be Arsenal's downfall when he made yet another poor decision in racing outside of his 18 yard box to clear with a header. The ball fell to the dangerous Nicolae Dica who chipped it goalwards from forty yards out only to see it cleared off the line by the heroic Kolo Toure.

Arsenal were struggling, and at times it seemed as though Arsene Wenger would have to settle for a point.

Steaua substitute Constantin Iacob nearly put the home side in the lead when he beat Arsenal's offside trap to find himself alone with Manuel Almunia. The Spanish keeper wasn't even forced to make a save though, as Iacob wasted the best chance of the game, smashing it high over the bar.

Arsenal finally got their goal though, as Emmanuel Adebayor cut the ball back for Cesc Fabregas. The young Spaniard failed to latch on to the ball, but it fell nicely for Robin van Persie who promptly struck the ball into the net from 12 yards out.

The visitors nearly got a second when Adebayor turned well, only to fire just over the crossbar. One goal was all they needed though, as they played keep ball for the rest of the game, limiting Steaua's chances.

Arsene Wenger should be happy with the resilience and skill of his youngsters, and the Arsenal board should be happy with the victory. 1-0 may not be the most flattering scoreline, but 3 points are 3 points, and Arsenal now sit comfortably on the verge of the knockout stages after only two games played.