By Randy Osae
Arsenal successfully rampaged Fenerbahce to win 5-2 on a marvelous but very gritty night in Istanbul.
Arsene Wenger’s line-up was very conservative. The same back four that finished out the Everton game were used while Robin van Persie was sacrificed to allow a five-man midfield which included Abou Diaby.
Expectedly, the atmosphere at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium was very comfortable – to be notoriously sarcastic. And that paid off for the home side when Almunia was called into action by running off his line to stop a potential goal-scoring opportunity for Fenerbahce with only four minutes played.
But the fanatic Istanbul crowd were calmed after just eleven minutes. First Emmanuel Adebayor – courtesy of Fabregas’ through-ball and Walcott’s little flick to let him off – met goalkeeper Demirel in close-range, and he coolly slid the ball past him into the right corner of the net. A minute later, Theo Walcott also took advantage of another intelligent pass from Fabregas and with the help of his pace, Walcott rounded off the keeper to give Arsenal an absolute dream-start against the odds in Turkey.
The hosts did make their response eight minutes after. A dully defended free kick was eventually tapped home to the side of Almunia by Mikael Silvestre. At 2-1, after just 20 minutes, many anticipated a thrilling Turkish night.
And the hype did not disappoint with yet again another turn-around three minutes after Fenerbahce’s goal. Abou Diaby held off two defenders on the left of the penalty box and finished with his left foot to restore Arsenal’s two-goal cushion. Both teams continued their clumsy defending, and at half-time, the scoreline should or could have been double what it read.
Four minutes after the second-half’s start, the match was left to the dead by a goal from Alex Song of all people. The Cameroonian fiercely volleyed home a lazily headed ball by Fenebahce’s defense. The Turks then mounted a surge for an astonishing comeback – which was somehow a good bet. After all Turkey is a nation of drama according to Euro 2008’s narrators.
Chances of that revenge were bettered when Daniel Guiza chipped over Almunia for a glimmer of hope at 4-2 after some unaware defending by Arsenal in the 77th minute. Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Adebayor were then replaced by Johan Djourou and Carlos Vela respectively.
Soon, it was into injury time and a fresh Gunner would enjoy a memorable fortune. Aaron Ramsey who had replaced the hardworking Abou Diaby precisely stroke from about 18 yards out to conclude a emphatic night.