A late goal from David Mendes Da Silva earned AZ Alkmaar the share of the spoils as Arsenal relinquished two points they could have done without dropping.
AZ Alkmaar entered the game promising to expose the Arsenal weaknesses they had amassed from watching the Gunners’ 6-2 thrashing of Blackburn Rovers but it took until the 93rd minute for the Dutch Champions to finally retreat from their shells and revealed a chink in Arsenal’s armour of which everybody already knew. A free-kick played deep towards Pelle akin to how Blackburn scored their first in that game was headed back to the unmarked Mendes da Silva to smash home. “They have thrown everything forward and felt they could only score on a set-piece, and that is what happened,” said Arsene Wenger. “We were largely in control, but as long as you are not two goals in front, that is the problem. We feel frustrated because we felt we were superior to this team.”
AZ was indeed cautious and on the whole tried to remain calculated because as the game against Rovers showed; if you give Arsenal space you’ll be punished. As it was, a mistake from the centre back Niklas Moisander gifted Arsenal the opener as the Finn mis-controlled a pass from one of AZ’s less successful attempts to bore Arsenal to death with their patient game. Arshavin seized upon it, played in van Persie and the Dutchman unselfishly passed across goal to Cesc Fabregas to shoot into an empty net.
Arsenal was in control but not quite themselves. Maybe it was the way AZ matched Arsenal in closing down space in a slightly different 4-3-3 formation. Australian Holman was detailed to get close to lone striker El-Hamdaoui when in possession and when not, could make a three in the centre. Ronald Koeman’s side were supremely disciplined but not that all ambitious, choosing to stroke the ball about impotently in the first period. Dembele on the right flank gave Clichy a tough test and if the winger continues playing as impressively will surely be plying his trade at a bigger club should AZ’s financially troubles deepen.
Robin van Persie was Arsenal’s best player but found chances to play men in limited. Staying up was also a problem on the greasy pitch as Arsenal time and again were off target in their passes in the final third while others failed to time their runs. A second-half change saw a brief cameo from Vela and the forward was involved in a strong penalty shout which on another day would have been given. Andrey Arshavin then assumed the main forward role for the last ten minutes and had a couple of opportunities to run at the defence. But in the end it was Arsenal’s eagerness to kill the game off that contributed to the surrendering of the three points as an offside decision gave AZ the last minute free-kick to steal an unlikely draw.
Alkmaar (4-4-2): S Romero, K Jaliens, N Moisander (sub: P Wernbloom, 84min), H Moreno, S Poulsen — B Holman (sub: G Pellè, 73), D Mendes da Silva, S Schaars, M Martens (sub: J Lens, 69) — M El Hamdaoui, M Dembélé.
Substitutes not used: J Didulica, R Klavan, N van der Velden, G Swerts.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Mannone (6), Sagna (6), Vermaelen (6),Gallas (6) Clichy (6) —Song (6), Fàbregas (6), Diaby (6)— Eboué (6) (sub: A Ramsey, 83), van Persie (7) (sub: C Vela, 75), A Arshavin (6).
Substitutes not used: M Almunia, M Silvestre, J Wilshere, K Gibbs, F Merida.
Booked: Van Persie, Clichy, Vela.
Referee: M Hansson (Sweden).
|AZ Alkmaar||Team Statistics||Arsenal|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|1||Shots on Target||7|
|3||Shots off Target||3|