Robin van Persie’s first half penalty gave Arsenal the win but the Gunners had a number of chances to stretch their lead going in to the second leg.
Arsenal 1-0 Roma
UEFA Champions League Matchday 7 1st Leg
“I don’t doubt my method but I doubt myself everyday,” said manager Arsene Wenger before the game. Restricted in his signings because of the move to the Emirates, some fans have been disgruntled by Arsenal’s failure to mount a more serious domestic challenge but injuries and failure to open up defense minded teams are just some of the problems that have belied that. And against less defensive minded opposition we got to see just why the Frenchman places so much faith in his enigmatic vision .
Arsenal had thoroughly outclassed Roma for much of the game but once again over-elaboration and a couple of bad shots denied Arsenal from going into the game at Rome with the tie done and dusted. And to rub salt in Roma’s wounds, the Giallorossi playmaker Danielle De Rossi will now miss the second leg, which would have been an uphill battle had the Gunners not confirmed their chronic inability to translate excellent approach play into goals.
Denilson kept the team ticking, winning the ball back and playing it into space whether sideways or forwards. Part of Wenger’s new ‘Golden Generation’ the Brazilian has not endeared himself to most of the faithful yet but this performance should go at least someway in reversing that. His partner in the dual midfield shield, Diaby had a strong game also; tackling back and linking up play and his ball retention was surprisingly good. In fact it was a team effort as Arsenal denied Totti space and constantly pressured Roma’s backline not giving them time to pass the ball out of defence. Wenger deploying Nasri centrally behind Van Persie and Bendtner and Eboue wide and the latter two had the greatest of Arsenal’s opportunities but a lack of composure and decision making meant Roma are still one goal away from extra time. Van Persie scored from the spot after Mexes had brought him down meaning he has been involved in all of Arsenal’s goals directly this year in the time he has spent on the pitch.
With fifteen minutes the go Arsenal lost cohesion with Diaby being replaced by Song and the Italians finally putting greater pressure to get the equaliser. However they couldn’t find that fluency that has been there during their last few league matches, De Rossi having a particularly off day. Playing in a Beckenbaur role in front of the back four as opposed to behind; the midfielder was meant to bring a certain simpleness to the role like a “back-to-basics Dogme film.”
For the Gunners it may have helped Roma were playing the diamond rather than the 4-3-3-0 as Totti and in particular Baptista had an off day while the midfielders failed to get a hold of the ball. Arsenal did try to give the Italians some chance of a goal as Toure and Gallas were late in coming on to the pitch for the second half as the game started without them. Arsenal victorious but the lead more narrow than it should have been.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Eboue (Ramsey 82), Denilson, Diaby (Song Billong 62), Nasri, Van Persie, Bendtner (Vela 67).
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Djourou, Gibbs, Merida.
Booked: Toure, Nasri.
Goals: Van Persie 37 pen.
Roma: Doni, Motta, Mexes, Loria (Diamoutene 71), Riise, Perrotta, De Rossi, Brighi (Pizarro 56), Taddei, Julio Baptista (Vucinic 82), Totti.
Subs Not Used: Artur, Ribeiro, Tonetto, Montella.
Booked: Mexes, Brighi, De Rossi.
Ref: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark).
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