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1-1 it ended and Arsenal got a (stunning!) vital away goal. The result surely shifts the balance even further in favour of Arsenal.
The first half started in disastrous fashion for Arsenal. Early on Clichy had to clear off the line and it hinted what was to come from Villareal tonight. After just 10 minutes Marcos Senna unleashed a 25 yard thunderbolt. Almunia was helpless despite full stretch dive as the ball ended up in the top corner. Just like away at Roma, we were trailing very early in the game.
But the goal awakened the Arsenal. After some clever work by Walcott and the Fabregas, the ball came to Nasri whose shot was pushed aside by Diego Lopez. Arsenal also forced a couple of corners but were unable to convert either of them.
The start went from bad to worse as Almunia had to go off with an ankle injury just around the half hour mark.
His replacement Fabianski immediately had some serious work to do. First saving a shot from Senna and then denying Capdevilla from the rebound.
Things were not looking good for Arsenal. This time Song tripped Rossi outside the box and the Italian forward fell on Gallas, injuring our ex-captain. He had to be taken off on a stretcher for an injury that according to Arsene Wenger looks bad and the Frechman’s season may well be over.
A few half chances came Villareal’s way but the final chance of the half fell to Arsenal. Adebayor was fouled outside the box. Fabregas found the back of the net from the resulting free-kick but the referee wasn’t pleased. He brandished a yellow card at Fabregas, possibly because the Spaniard had taken the kick too quickly. The free kick was retaken. Toure had a go at it but hit straight at the wall.
That was the end of a poor first half for Arsenal. If they kept playing this way in the second half, it could easily have been a defeat for Arsenal but the Gunners had other plans.
Arsenal were a different side right after the second half whistle. There was an urgency in their attacks and their swift passing seemed too hot to handle. Chances came Nasri’s and Adebayor’s ways but it remained 1-0.
In the 66th minute Fabregas chipped the ball to Adebayor. The Togolese forward chested the ball and then drilled the ball into the far corner with a stunning overhead kick. The El Madrigal was silenced.
Nasri and Walcott had opportunities to seal the win but couldn’t take them. Senna also threatened with another long range effort but it went wide.
1-1 it ended and Arsenal deserved it. With Almunia and Gallas out, they still managed to avoid conceding and on the other hand kept their cool to get the equaliser after a poor first half.
One would fancy Arsenal to get a win at the Emirates so Arsenal should go through but it could get interesting if Villareal put up a fight just like Porto did at Old Trafford. We aren’t into the semis yet but we are nearly there.
This season is shaping into one we could all remember in the years to come. To make that happen Arsenal would love to get a win in Spain against Villareal.
But Arsene Wenger, unlike us Gooners, refuses to count Arsenal’s chances in the Champions League. The Arsenal manager said:
“We are super outsiders because all of the favourites are Liverpool, Manchester United and Barcelona. I think tonight is a 50:50. We are super-outsiders to win the trophy of the Champions League because when you look at the bookmakers, we are not in there.
“It puts a little less pressure on you but once you are on the pitch, it doesn’t change too much.
Villareal will come into this match after a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Almeria but apart from that set-back they haven’t been doing too badly. WWLWL. Both the defeats have been away from home and the last time they lost at home was way back in December when they lost 2-1 to Barcelona. Since then they have won 5 and drawn 2 at El Madrigal. It’s a decent enough record to at least force a draw from Arsenal but if the Gunners play like the way they have been lately, there will be no stopping them!
We are all quite aware of the hot form Arsenal are in at the moment. 7 consecutive wins (if you count the penalty shootout victory as a win) and unbeaten in 22 matches in all competitions.
Moving on to team news now. Samir Nasri is back after sitting out the win over Man City because of flu. van Persie and Eduardo remain out of the squad due to groin injuries and cup-tied Arshavin will also not feature. So Wenger can use the same formation he used against Man City on the weekend with Nasri filling the void in midfield left by Arshavin.
Clichy Gallas Toure Sagna
Nasri Fabregas Walcott
If Fabregas is on song just like he was on Saturday, I see Arsenal coming back home with a lead in hand. He is an exceptional talent. And then Walcott can keep making those defence piercing runs and Adebayor keep finishing the way he is capable of and we should all but guarantee a place in the semis after just this leg!
Realistically speaking though, a draw seems the most likely result but a win for either side is still quite possible.
And lets not forget this Villareal held Manchester United to goal-less draws both at and away from home.
Santi Cazorla, Robert Pires and Diego Godin have been doing the talking lately, confident of their team’s chances in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final against Arsenal.
Firstly, Santi Cazorla, who is out for the rest of the season with an injury suffered this weekend, is “convinced that they are going to beat Arsenal”.
Then Diego Godin is as confident as his team-mate saying “I’m sure that we will have a great game on Tuesday”. Talk of confidence and determination!
“Arsenal are coming here in good form, but, aside from this latest result, we were also playing well.
“This team is ready to recover and I’m sure that we will have a great game on Tuesday. We are determined to turn the situation around and we need not be pessimistic because we have a great team.”
Former Arsenal star Robert Pires also spoke as the first leg draws near and just like his other team-mates is confident of success:
“It will be the first time I’ve played against them.
“We are teams with contrasting styles but also with top-quality players. It’s not the best thing to be playing the return leg away from home but if we perform like we have in the past we can get through.
“If I’m lucky enough to score I know that I won’t celebrate, simply as a gesture of respect to a club, and their fans, which have meant so much in my career.”
Pires also urged Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas to stay at the club. Check that story out here
However, Villareal manager Manuel Pelligrini was more realistic with his comments. He was not “sure” or “convinced” that they will progress:
“Progressing should be more than important than the spirit of revenge.
“We know they play fast and different football but that doesn’t make it better. We will have to wait and see if we can surpass them this time.
“That meeting was three years ago and now everything is different. We have different teams, different players and different times.”
I bet deep down inside they all fear Arsenal! The way we have been playing lately even Barca would fear us! Arsenal’s squad at the moment is one of the toughest in Europe and fully capable of winning the Champions League. We will be without Arshavin but Nasri will be back to fill the void and otherwise the team was perfect on Saturday. The problem for Arsene Wenger now will not be injuries but it will be who to select! The squad is now overflowing with ‘fit’, talented players!