Saturday, November 3, 2007

Arsenal vs. Manchester United: Match Review

Match Preview

Arsenal came from behind twice to secure a vital point at home to Manchester United in one of the most dramatic finishes of this Premier League season.

A Wayne Rooney goal in first half added-time (deflected in by William Gallas) gave United the lead going into half time, but Cesc Fabregas equalized after only three minutes in the forty-eighth. Cristiano Ronaldo then put the Reds ahead for the second time of the night in the 82nd minute, but just as United looked to have secured a win William Gallas scored Arsenal's second to keep the Gunners unbeaten record intact.

Arsene Wenger's squad maintains its position at the top of the Premiership by only the narrowest of margins, tied with United on points and goal differential. Only goals scored separates the two sides, although Arsenal have a game in hand.

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Gael Clichy; Emmanuel Eboue, Cesc Fabregas, Mathieu Flamini, Tomas Rosicky; Alex Hleb; Emmanuel Adebayor

Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar; Wes Brown, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic; Oliveira Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Owen Hargreaves, Cristiano Ronaldo; Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney

Despite a first half nearly devoid of shots on target, the match started brightly (as is to be expected in a top-of-the-table clash).

Wenger's Gunners displayed some of their excellent one-touch football while Ferguson's United gave them little space.

United had the first good chance of the half on eight minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo saw a header come off the post. The goal would have been disallowed either way though, as referee Howard Webb called him for a push on Tomas Rosicky.

Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor then had a chance from a similar position in the other half of the field, but completely mistimed his jump after a perfectly timed run met a cross from Gael Clichy. His disappointing header soared well over van der Sar's crossbar.

Ryan Giggs had a great chance following a fast break in the sixteenth minute, but the veteran midfielder could only stab the ball wide from a yard out, keeping the game level.

With ten minutes to go until half time, Arsenal finally tested Edwin van der Sar for the first time. A well taken free kick from Cesc Fabregas was headed downward by William Gallas only to be impressively saved by the trailing legs of the Manchester United goalie.

It was United who managed to grab the first goal though, when Wayne Rooney's shot deflected of of William Gallas into the goal from a few yards out after a low cross from Cristiano Ronaldo.

United were not ahead for long. Only three minutes into the second half, Fabregas grabbed his sixth league goal of the season to bring Arsenal level. A volley from Adebayor was saved by Edwin van der Sar, but the loose ball fell to Bacary Sagna who teed up the Spaniard who fired home from twelve yards.

The goal gave Arsenal some impetus, and for the first time in the game a team was able to sustain pressure for a fairly long period of time. However, the Gunners were only able to test van der Sar once before a United counterattack, as Cesc Fabregas hit a free kick under the wall, only for the United goalie to make a comfortable save.

Ryan Giggs then found Rooney in the box, but the forward's powered header went well off target.

Alex Hleb was the next man to miss the target. Emmanuel Eboue fed the Belarus international, but the Arsenal midfielder took one too many touches before sending the ball wide with his left foot.

Ronaldo then scored United's second, following some poor decision making from Manuel Almunia. The keeper came out to dispossess Patrice Evra on the side of the eighteen yard box, only for the French defender to unsurprisingly cut the ball back to the center. Cristiano Ronaldo easily swept the ball up into the empty net, leaving the Arsenal players dejected.

The fans got behind their team though, and their patience almost paid off when Evra botched a clearance, hitting his own post before nervously laughing off his mistake with Edwin van der Sar.
The Gunner's spirit prevailed though, and Arsenal were able to bring one back during stoppage time to stay undefeated league leaders. William Gallas shot at a congested goal, and Edwin van der Sar palmed the ball away - from behind the goal line. The ball was correctly ruled a goal as Arsenal made a dramatic comeback.

If this game doesn't prove that Arsenal have a title chance, I don't know what could.