Dear readers, please find below a full report of the trip to Madrid. Bill Bryson watch out. Or not.
Arrived at Barcelona airport, checked in and had the couple gin and tonics that I must drink before I fly. Every time. No exceptions. Same bar. Same table if possible. I’m not superstitious at all, oh no.
Went through the the boarding section and had to put my bag and jacket on the little tray to go through the security check. Jacket off means the home shirt with ‘REYES 9′ on the back is clearly visible. The metal plate in my arm sets the beeper off so I get a frisking. The security guard sees the shirt and smiles. “Good luck tonight!”, he says.
Sit down on the plane and the seat next to me is taken by a bloke who says “Hello mate!”. He and his mate are Arsenal fans and he’d flown from Dublin to Bournmouth to Barcelona and then onto Madrid. So we chat all the way to Madrid and on the metro into the city centre. They’re going a different way so we shake hands and wish each other luck. We’re going to need it of course, the way we’ve been playing and the injuries we have.
I meet my Swedish friend Chris with whom I’m staying and we take a train to his flat where he has beers chilling. So it would be rude not to drink them. So we do. Then head off into the city centre to meet Arseblogger Liam who has my precious ticket. We lunch, drink some beers, go to an Irish bar called the Dubliner, drink some beer, go to another bar to meet a group of ruffians, drink some beer, then take a taxi around 6 o’clock up towards the Bernebeu.
We find a bar called ‘The Irish Rover’ which Chris informs us is normally a favourite of Real Madrid fans before games. Unfortunately for them the place is packed full of singing Gooners. We have a beer, then another beer. We meet a bloke who has come all the way from Basel and who paid €350 for a ticket at the airport. The touts were around the bars offering them for £200 each. The Arsenal fans are in great spirits, some of the lads were end-of-night drunk at 7pm though. I can’t imagine they remembered much of the game but there you go.
At around 8pm we were in our seats in the stadium. There was no trouble that I saw and we had a fantastic view. We were just to the left of the goal at the front of the very top tier. The net they hung was a little bit distracting at first but after a while it was invisible. The place started filling up very quickly, the Arsenal fans were singing and maybe it was the beer but there was an air of, if not confidence, of believing we weren’t going to get stuffed.
Before the game and with the previous results and our form clearly on everybody’s mind most fans just wanted the team to perform, to show up, to fight and not to look as lifeless and careless as we have seen too often this season. The first 10 minutes made us think that maybe we could expect more.
Reyes had a chance which was well saved by Casillas, Henry put a header just wide and Freddie nearly got through. They didn’t look at all threatening and we had a good laugh at Woodgate going off so early. They had a chance with Beckham after a mistake by Senderos but Jens made a great save.
At half-time the consensus amongst all of us queueing to have a piss was that we really could get something from the game.
“We can take these cunts”, said one.
“Are you going to piss forever?”, said another.
“Some cunt’s had a shit on the floor in there”, said another.
The half-time high jinks over and done with it was back to the stands to the Arsenal fans who were making so much noise. Then Cesc gave it to Thierry who skipped past that fat cunt Ronaldo, that massive ponce Guti, and skipped into the area and just as it looked like he was going to lose it he clipped it past Casillas.
Cue mentalness of the highest order. It was only yesterday when I saw replays that I realised how good a goal it was. There were hugs and jumping and singing of 1-0 to the Arsenal. I can’t really describe the rest of it, Henry had another chance, Pires had a half-chance when he came on, Reyes was running rings around Cicinho who was lucky to stay on the pitch.
Time, Arsechums, was as slow as you can possibly imagine. There was a big clock at the other end of the stadium. 20 minutes of the second half gone it said. I watched the match for another 15 minutes. 22 minutes of the game gone it said. The linesman and the referee were both cunts. They brought on Raul and Baptista (“You’ll never play for Arsenal”) but they still didn’t look dangerous. In the last minute of the 17 minutes of injury time Raul won his only header and Ronaldo couldn’t get near it because he is a big fat cunt who Real Madrid fans said should be ‘thrown in the bin’ after his performance.
There was a rousing chorus of ‘Adios, Adios, Adios’ (Cheerio en enspañol) for the hundreds of Madrid fans who streamed out early. Eventually the final whistle went. Pandemonium. Mayhem. Maydemonium. Pandehem. The players came over to applaud. Kolo and Phil were first, fists clenched. They all came, they clapped, we clapped, they left. We were kept in the stadium for about 25 minutes afterwards and kept ourselves amused by singing songs to the other Gooners who had tickets in other parts of the ground and sang and danced along with us.
When they let us out they made us all go through one exit which was strange because there were about 4 or 5 other sets of stairs leading down to that exit. At one point all of us had to channel into a very narrow corridor with steps down and steps up at the far end. Potentially it was quite dangerous. I told one of the police guys blocking the other stairs that it was dangerous and he just stared at me. Not fancying a cracked skull from his very heavy looking truncheon I left it at that. We got out in the end and made our way to a bar near the stadium where the Real fan behind the bar charged us far too much for the beers, but it didn’t matter.
We had some banter with some Madrid fans, who in general were very friendly. Apart from one ‘Ultra’ who walked past the window and gave us the finger as we raised our glasses to him. We then made our way back into town for some more beers and some tapas. Chris wanted Patatas Bravas but they didn’t have any so he had more beer instead. There were lots of Arsenal fans around and all in very good form for some reason! Then onto the Dubliner where some G&Ts made a nice change. The night ended without ridiculous drunkeness, for most of us, and it was brilliant.
Being the first English team to ever win the Bernebeu was fantastic. Thierry Henry’s goal was fantastic. The support and the crack we had in the stadium was fantasitic. But the best thing about the night was that the players played the way we’ve all known they can. The potential that the young players have came right to the fore and they were well supported, at last, by the experience in the team.
Freddie had his best game of the season, he was everywhere, busy. Gilberto shielded the back four well and did the simple things well – and most of the time that involved giving the ball to Cesc. Flamini got stuck in at left back and considering it’s really not his position he did a good job. Kolo and Phil, his one mistake apart, we really solid at the back. Ronaldo hardly got a kick and Raul the same when he came on.
Eboue had his best game for us. He defended brilliantly, keeping an in-form Robinho as quiet as a mouse, and got forwarded a lot too. José was lively and really enjoyed himself. He did Cicinho time and time again and the Brazilian was very lucky not pick up a second yellow. José also provided the comedy moment of the match when having taken a kick he found himself off the pitch so play continued. That obviously didn’t suit him so he rolled onto to the pitch in agony prompting some angry Madrid players to surround him and Casillas got a yellow for his troubles. Hilarious because it wasn’t some cunt doing it to us.
Hleb started badly, gave the ball away a couple of times – one time in particular a good ball could have seen José clean through on goal – but really grew into the game. I haven’t been convinced by him at all but I thought he had a pretty good game, certainly the best I’ve seen him have for Arsenal. Jens Lehmann put in another top class game, he’s been the best keeper in the Premiership and such a good night in Europe can only do his World Cup chances the power of good. He was commanding, confident and made some good saves.
Thierry Henry – what can you say? From where I was watching he could have gotten forward more, could have looked a bit more lively and certainly some fans were suggesting he do that and more, but then he pops up with a moment of brilliance which ultimately won us the game. He’s splendidly frustrating.
Then onto my man of the match. It was hard to believe that Cesc Fabregas is only 18. I think this game is the one people will talk about as the one where he came of age. In a midfield battle against Zidane, Guti, Robinho and Beckham at the Bernebeu he shone. He was calm, composed, creative. He dictated the play. He showed moments of great skill – one turn near the touchline towards the end of the game was a perfect showcase for his talents.
Every single Spanish paper I read yesterday was literally creaming themselves over how good he was. And they were right. He was amazing. The papers also reported that he was applauded off the pitch by the Madrid fans. I really can’t confirm that as he was too busy getting the ovation he deserved from the Arsenal fans but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true. He was that good. His passing, his vision, his workrate, his totally inability to be fazed by any occassion or opposition is just wonderful. This boy is going to be a true star and I’m so glad he plays for the Arsenal. I saw him interviewed on Spanish TV yesterday and you could see how much it meant to him.
He told the reporter he just didn’t have the words to describe how he felt as a grin the size of Jennifer Lopez’s arse covered his face. I love that little guy!
As I said at the start it was just brilliant to see the players play the way we know they can play. The manager has always had faith in them and maybe they doubted their abilities but this result and this performance should prove to them they are capable of winning difficult games. That’s not to say we should get carried away by it but what it does is suggest that if they can perform like this against Real Madrid at home then they can do it anywhere. Perhaps it’s a question of motivation – who couldn’t raise their game against Real Madrid in a fantastic stadium like the Bernebeu? – but now they’ve raised the bar. They’ve shown us what they can do and between now and end of the season they need to do it home and away as the fight for the Champions League place really hots up.
Overall though it was just a brilliant night. The players were great, the manager got it spot on, the Arsenal fans were brilliant all night long, the Bernebeu was a great place to watch football and it’s a night that will live a long time in the memory. Even one was bad as mine.
Uneventful until I reached Barcelona airport. I went for a badly needed wee as the two gin and tonics I’d had in Madrid airport had worked there way through. After that I went out to catch the bus into the city centre. It pulled up. The door opened. The bus driver saw my Arsenal scarf then did that two fists in the air motion like he had just scored a goal.
“Grande, tío! Grande!”, he said. To translate that to Dublin English, think “Deadly, man! Deadly!”
As I got on the bus he came out from behind the wheel and gave me a big hug while the rest of the people on the bus looked on slightly bemused. He still charged me the fare though, the cunt.
So there you go. Report over. A jolly good time was had by all. A night to be proud to be a Gooner no matter how long your website has been running. Let’s hope we can do it in the return leg at Highbury then we draw Barcelona. That, my friends, would be some fun.