Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Arsenal vs. Steaua Bucharest: Match Review

Arsenal defeated Steaua Bucharest 2-1 at the Emirates, returning to their winning ways before a tough fixture against Chelsea on Sunday.

The victory, which saw the return from injury of Robin van Persie, was not enough to put the Gunners at the top of their group, meaning that they will have to face Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan, or Porto in the knockout stages.

Arsenal: Jens Lehmann; Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, Armand Traore; Abou Diaby, Alex Song, Neves Denilson, Theo Walcott; Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner

Steaua Bucharest: Robinson Zapata; Ifeany Emeghara, Dorin Goian, Mihai Nesu, Ionut Rada; Vasilica Cristocea, Nicolae Dica, Florin Lovin, Ovidiu Petre; Valentin Badea, Adrian Neaga

Arsenal started brightly, with Theo Walcott in particular showing some of his promise.

The 18 year-old was on the receiving end of a beautiful pass from the fit-again Robin van Persie, but shot just wide after only two minutes of play.

A few minutes later he had his second chance of the game this time created by his own guile. Walcott skipped past two challenges, and into the box, but could only fire over the bar.

Arsenal's actions paid off soon enough though, as Abou Diaby returned from injury to score the Gunners' first goal.

Walcott was once again in the fray, passing to Bacary Sagna, who centered the ball with a low cross. Countryman Diaby took a touch to control, and then sent a powerful shot into the back of the net, giving Arsenal an early lead.

The tempo wound down a bit as the half wore on, with Steaua looked well beaten despite being only one goal behind. Jens Lehmann's return saw the German keeper as more of a spectator than anything else.

Arsenal had another chance around the 35 minute mark when Robin van Persie took a shot from near the penalty spot but saw his effort curl wide of the post.

The English team still looked the more likely team to score though, and it came as no surprise when Nicklas Bendtner stepped up to claim Arsenal's second of the night.

A perceptive pass from van Persie met Bendtner in the area, and the big Dane stepped over a challenge before coolly slotting home.

Arsenal were cruising in the second half, and still looked the more likely team to score. Bendtner almost grabbed a second, only for Steaua keeper Robinson Zapata to rush out of goal.

It was Steaua who found the back of the net last though, soon after van Persie made way for Eduardo.

A looping header from Dorel Zaharia beat Jens Lehmann to give the Romanian team a consolation goal.

They never looked like they could come back level with Arsenal though, and only wastefulness kept the Gunners only a goal ahead, as both Theo Walcott and Eduardo went clear in stoppage time.

The squad will have to show better composure in front of goal if they hope to beat Chelsea this Sunday.