Arsenal showed their mental strength as the Gunners progress to the quarter finals of the Champions League at the expense of AS Roma, winning 7-6 on penalties.
Roma 0-1 Arsenal (Agg: 1-1)
Arsenal win 7-6 on penalties
It was a penalty which divided the two sides once again as Arsenal’s youngster’s displayed character to defeat Roma. Van Persie’s spot kick separated the two teams at The Emirates last time round although the Gunners should have won by more and this time, it was Max Tonetto who blazed over what turned out to be the final penalty which decided the tie.
Arsenal were disjointed and not at all fluent all game, the early goal from Juan important in setting the tone of the match. Totti’s cross across goal was left by both Gallas and Toure, in a moment of indecision which found Juan lurking back post to fire home. It was a pity as the two central defenders didn’t put a foot wrong all game and snuffed out most of Roma’s attacks on the counter.
Spaletti spoke beforehand of abandoning their beautiful football in their mission to progress to the last eight and the early goal saw such a change of emphasis. Starting as a diamond, the Italian side reverted to the 4-3-3 with Vucinic and Totti playing high up the pitch and the defence defending deep. This meant the pitch was stretched, not allowing Arsenal to ever get a real foothold in the game. The Gunners fell to the trap not to dissimilar to the match against Fulham and never got themselves out. “We had problems to create clear-cut chances, and that was down to the quality of their defending and resilience,” said Arsene Wenger. Roma squeezed out the space, especially for Nasri to roam in and left no gaps, defending in a deep, compact block.
If there was a foreign team that could match the English sides physically and of their fitness levels it is Roma. High work-rate, high stamina and tactically disciplined ensured their seemingly average players could compete with Arsenal for industry (to the English media at least, are Roma average). Motta and Taddei forced good saves from Almunia and the former, all the way from right back could have won a penalty when bundled over under Clichy’s presence. Arsenal had their chance at the end of normal time as Kolo Toure headed over but that was the closest the Gunners got though Diaby had an effort that went just wide. Sagna and Clichy ran themselves to the ground, Bendtner’s first touch/final ball eluded him when dribbling while Nasri and Van Persie huffed and puffed to no reward.
Arsenal were better in extra-time which is not saying much. It seemed Roma wanted penalties and one could understand why; their side oozed of expertise from 12 yards out and had penalty takers down to number seven. This was typified by Montella’s penalty which had Almunia stumbling to his right long before the little “The Little Aeroplane” had even shot. Even the missed penalty from Vucinic showed the confidence Roma had but the Montenegrin poked the ball at Almunia’s legs. Oddly Arsenal’s normally most coolest player, Eduardo missed the first penalty and with Van Persie Arsenal’s most recognised taker left the signs weren’t great. However the youngsters stepped up with Diaby, Denilson, Walcott and Nasri all coolly slotting home before Sagna stroked what turned out to be Arsenal’s last penalty. Max Tonetto didn’t look at all confident when he stepped up as Roma’s clean strikers of the ball ran out. His penalty ballooned way over the bar to send Arsenal through. “The team has swum a lot against the stream,” Wenger said. “I believe this kind of result can increase the belief and the self-confidence which can help us for the rest of the season.”
Roma: Doni, Motta, Diamoutene, Juan (Julio Baptista 28), Riise, Brighi (Montella 120), Pizarro, Tonetto, Taddei (Aquilani 90), Vucinic, Totti.
Subs Not Used: Artur, Loria, Ribeiro, Menez.
Booked: Pizarro, Motta.
Goals: Juan 10.
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Diaby, Denilson, Eboue (Walcott 74), Nasri, Bendtner (Eduardo 85), Van Persie.
Subs Not Used: Fabianski, Djourou, Gibbs, Vela, Song Billong.
Ref: Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain).
|5||Shots on Target||4|
|6||Shots off Target||6|
|143,881||Distance Covered (metres)||145,736|