We wanted a performance after the Old Trafford debacle and we got one last night. It’s just a shame we couldn’t get the goal our efforts deserved.
Adebayor’s header off the bar in injury time would have won the game for us but, while he really should have scored from there, it’s hard to be critical of the man who has scored so many important goals for us this season. I thought we were in charge for pretty much all of the game. We lost Kolo after just 7 minutes but Philippe Senderos continued his renaissance with another excellent performance and himself and Gallas really do have a good partnership going at the back.
The first half was a bit cat and mouse but towards the end we started making space in and around their box and, crucially, in front of their back four. They lost Nesta early in the second half and I suppose that helped us take control more and start creating chances. The Milan keeper, who looks like he should be dressed in a gangster’s suit and smoking a cigarette in a black and white movie, made saves from Cesc and from Adebayor but they were fairly routine. There was no real danger in the shots.
Pato and Kaka up front for Milan were well marshalled by Senderos and Gallas, the two full backs were excellent (Sagna in particular given the difficult circumstances he came into the game with) and Flamini was there to mop up in front of our back four. Although they had a little spell of pressure it was all us.
Some lovely work down the right and a slip from a Milan defender saw Hleb feed Eboue on the edge of the box but his shot was poor and went wide. Eboue did play better than at Old Trafford (not too hard, in fairness) but picked up a yellow card for diving in the box late on. I thought the yellow was a bit harsh but I don’t think it was a penalty either. His reputation went before him a bit there. He also overhit a pass to Hleb which, had it been better, would have been a great chance for a goal. As it was Hleb played it back to Bendtner who slammed a left foot shot over the bar.
In the one moment of late danger Senderos made a great interception in our box while Pirlo whacked a couple of free kicks wide. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone seem to care less about where they hit the ball. With Walcott on for Eboue and 4 minutes of injury time nearly up the chance came. Theo showed good skill and pace to get outside the defender and put in a beautiful cross which found Adebayor unmarked and inside the 6 yard box. How he hit the bar from there I’ll never know but there you are, nothing we can do to change it now.
Update: Hazza on the arses found this pic, he still should have scored but this might explain why he missed.
Overall though I thought there was a lot to be encouraged about. The pundits might speculate a draw suits Milan better but we just need one goal there to make them need two. I’d rather draw 0-0 than 1-1, that’s for sure. I also don’t see that it’s beyond us to go to Milan and get a goal. We spoke about the youth v experience factor and ultimately it came down to old legs v young legs. The longer the game went on the more we looked like we were going to score. That will hold true in the second leg as well. We don’t have to be gung-ho, we don’t have go charging at them, and we can use the extra bit of fitness to our advantage. Apparently no English team has ever beaten AC Milan at the San Siro. Lucky for us then that we only need a score draw.
Afterwards the boss was not dwelling on missed chances but only on the positives from his team, saying:
We showed maturity and got a clean sheet – which is very positive for the second game. Overall, I am very happy with the response I got from my team – the quality we have shown was outstanding.
While William Gallas said:
They played very well and defended well. We had the chances to score but didn’t do it. I think we have the chance to win there. We know it will be very tough – and we have to be ready for a big fight.
And I really think it’s a game we can get a result from. Yes, it would have been nice to take a lead over there but the lads showed tonight they wouldn’t be overawed by Milan. The San Siro isn’t so intimidating that it would have any effect on them, we’ve gone there before and won (against Inter), and we know we can make chances against this Milan team. At home they’ll be as ‘professional’ as they always are but I have to say I’m confident.
The bad news from last night is the loss of Kolo Toure for what the manager reckons could be three or four weeks. Apparently it’s a calf injury but it seemed to come about when Pato’s shot hit him on the knee. Strangely Arsene said it was down to ‘too much heat in the calf’, which is something I’ve never heard of before. Luckily though Philippe Senderos is playing very well, arguably the man of the match last night, so it could be worse. We coped with Kolo when he went to the ACN, we’ll have to cope again now. The only real danger is our lack of cover with Djourou still injured.
Now, we’ve got some important league games coming up, I’ll preview the Birmingham game tomorrow which, if we get three points, could see us go 8 clear and put some pressure on United who play later in the afternoon.
Finally, tomorrow is the last day of the Toffs promotion. 15% off anything to celebrate the relaunch of their website. Just use the term ‘leaders’ at check-out.
Till tomorrow and the Arsecast and all that.