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Report: Arsenal 2-0 Middlesbrough

By Randy Osae

arsenal-vs-boro-cescA fab-ulous captain’s contribution capped a scrumptious football exhibition from Arsenal which will resonate all the way to Old Trafford ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League semi-finals.

Cesc Fabrgeas was the rare finisher of a pair of sublime moves from the Gunners which were only a fraction of the number of occasions Arsenal strolled through the visitors.

Arsene Wenger mastered Gareth Southgate for once, and he made sure he did with comfort.

The Emirates’ favorites were the pace-setters as usual and passes were stringing. Fabregas found Gibbs at the near post, but the youngster was shy to react.

Arshavin wanted five today and was active on the left. Within 26 minutes, he would compose the opener.

Before sprinting, the Russian handed a pass to Bendtner who flicked the ball to Fabregas on the center-line. The Spaniard swiftly teed up Arshavin who returned possession over for the skipper to drill the ball home from the edge of the area.

On another day, the struggling visitors may have had an appeal for penalty approved when Bendtner’s arm seemed to have met a corner-kick from Stewart Downing.

And despite being second best, Boro posed their second question for the home side when that same man alarmed Almunia with a 20-yard snap-shot.

Arsenal’s defense regrouped after Silvestre was swapped for a fit-again Djourou into the second-half. And Almunia had to rush out of his area to deny Jeremie Aliadiere from making the most of a slight indiscipline at the back.

Boro were slacking more at the other end as Fabregas and Eboue teamed to set up Walcott who forced action from Brad Jones.

Still at 1-0, Southgate’s men were still biding their time to nick something and when Marlon King volleyed on target, Arsenal lost their mercy.

And so on 67 minutes, Eboue sent in a ripping through-pass for Fabregas who rounded off the goalkeeper to coolly end the contest.

With nothing to debate about now, it was necessary Wenger saved his knacks for midweek and so Abou Diaby and Emmanuel Adebayor replaced Fabregas and Walcott respectively.

It was another walkover today.

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Report: Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal

By Randy Osae

arsenal, arshavin thriller at anfieldWith this season’s away outfit signifying the 20th anniversary of 1989’s remarkable title grasp at Liverpool, tonight had been marked on the calendar well ahead.

A somehow deflated and suitably fourth-placed Arsenal managed to commemorate the occasion with a night to remember at Anfield through a virtuoso Arshavin.

The Russian’s quadruple of goals were matched by a resilient Liverpool, but it was a theatrical evening on Merseyside nonetheless.

Arsenal could not have found a more irrelevant fixture this season. Their tight fourth place security is unchanged and not much ground has been made up on third.

But they might have found a way to put Saturday’s distress well behind.

Chelsea had taken a lot out of Wenger’s men and as expected, Liverpool exploited the little they had left.

Torres, Riera, and Mascherano were all at the go before Fabregas chalked down Arsenal’s first try on 28 minutes.

Silvestre had to scramble the ball away after Torres nutmegged Toure to test Fabianski. Nasri then cleared off the mouth of his goal after Agger’s header proved dangerous.

Liverpool had been bossing until Arsenal hit them well against the run of play.

Nasri and Fabregas worked the ball on the right before the latter released a low pass for Arshavin to tap home with his weaker foot.

Arshavin then completed the first of his ‘finger on lips’ gestures to mark that goal as the infuriated Kop urged a response from the reds. And they got a swift one too.

Benayoun alerted Fabianski with half-time looming before his desperate side leveled right after the restart.

But Wenger could argue his men could have remained ahead for much longer. After all, a dully handled cross met by Torres to beat Fabianski was preventable. Arsenal could barely breath now as Liverpool sought the initiative to relieve their title ambitions.

And it only took a handful of minutes before a sandwich of Toure, Benayoun and Sagna bundled Kuyt’s cross past the goal line with Fabianski hesitant to concede with a false clearance.

Just like three days ago, Arsenal had fallen victims of a comeback having scored first, but with half an hour still to be played, Wenger opted to save the blushes tonight with Denilson sacrificed for a more audacious Walcott.

But it would be a Russian to do the trick. Arshavin stole the ball from 25 yards out and drilled in a stunner with Reina full-stretched. Indeed, he had saved his rampancy for tonight and netted a third after Carragher and Arbeloa were slacking right in no man’s land.

Arshavin had ran the show upfront and when he turned his back – to teammates in defense – Liverpool hit back.

It was typical Liverpool and trademark Torres. The Spaniard benefited from yet another cross, made light of Silvestre and thumped past Fabianski.

Then, it was up for grabs now – as an announcer 20 years back would reckon – with Torres seeing his goal-bound header negated by Gibbs before Andrey Arshavin stroke again.

This one was very Arsenal-esque though.

The Gunners broke off a tempting Liverpool corner with Walcott the road runner. And half-way near the reds’ territory, Walcott handed over to Arshavin who could hardly hesitate to whip a left-footed finish past Reina.

That seemed to have stilled the merry-go-round of events before Benayoun capped a fair night by punishing yet another diabolical moment in Arsenal’s defense from about 10 yards out.

The point impacts Arsenal’s season less and perhaps this one was just for the neutrals’ entertainment.

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Report: Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea

By Randy Osae

History will never cease to repeat itself.

A very familiar story echoed as Arsenal bowed out of the FA Cup lingering off a vivid semi-final at Wembley.

A couple of factors might have dominated bets prior to this particular London affair; the early leaders end up losing and Drogba always has a say on derby day.

Indeed, matters did settle that way.

Today’s events would also resemble that of a Carling Cup final two years ago when the pair last confronted in cup competition.

Walcott’s dream start was subsided by Malouda’s response before the break and then Didier Drogba’s same old infliction which sprung with contribution from the dooms of Lukasz Fabianski’s 24th birthday.

Arsene Wenger’s side were Wembley debutantes. On the other hand, Chelsea were not. And so Arsenal’s nerves would be exposed.

Early on, Fabianski rushed off his territory to salvage a hanging ball. Drogba was lurking and the Ivorian headed over Arsenal’s stopper only for Gibbs to provide the real salvage – clearing before the ball reached home.

Both sides were still pretending to peal off cagey starts until Arsenal broke the deadlock on 18 minutes.

Adebayor fed Gibbs on the left and the 19-year-old whipped in a cross for Walcott who replied with a fortuitous volley – helped to beat Cech by a deflection off Ashley Cole.

Chelsea would respond to red-alarm immediately and Malouda nearly leveled with a winding low drive through Fabianski’s arms and across goal. He repeated that trick just after the hour mark – nutmeging Eboue before beating Fabianski by his near post.

Chelsea owned the upper-hand now.

For a semi-final of this altitude, it was better drawing level to head into the interval than to be pegged back. And when Anelka fizzled a shot onto the post, it was evident Arsenal were the more concerned during half-time.

Into the second-half, Adebayor was presented half a chance when Chelsea’s defence failed to safely deal with a cross, but the Togolese’s punishment was miserable.

Arsenal’s next notable attempt was when Walcott utilized a commanding match-up with Ashley Cole to whip in a searching cross which demanded a simple touch. But Diaby and then Van Persie could hardly meet it.

Chelsea were also having their moments.

Arsenal’s left area was bare and Ballack profited to send in a cross, but Anelka could have done better to haunt his old club with a header. From a similar move, Drogba teed up Lampard who volleyed narrowly wide off the side netting.

It was becoming a delicately poised London derby with both set of players looking leggy at this point. That’s when managers were raring to be tactical.

Hiddink and Wenger were looking for impact elsewhere.

And so for Chelsea, Kalou was introduced while Adebayor paved way for Bendtner after Arshavin had been sent on for Van Perise. Arsenal’s latest substitute had not even made a touch when Lampard floated a ball in. Silvestre and Toure were lingering as Fabianski was rushing.

Drogba was quickest to guide the ball though, and he rounded off Arsenal’s stopper to decide who would be finalists.

Arsene Wenger’s instant reaction was in the form of an off-bench Samir Nasri but nothing could be changed – Arsenal would surrender.

There had been road to Wembley but it did not prove vintage destination for the Gunners when they arrived – and so there will be no return in May.

But there may still be Rome routes to pursue.

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Report: Arsenal 3-0 Villarreal

By Randy Osae

theo-arsenal-vs-villarrealArsene Wenger’s latest crop of youth have scaled new heights.

For only the second time in history, Arsenal ensured a Champions League semi-final berth in resounding fashion at the expense of Villarreal tonight.

Clinical touches from Walcott and Adebayor, then glossed by Van Persie’s conversion from the penalty spot, secured an easy route through to the last four.

The riches of a once rueful campaign is gradually being undermined.

The opening stages were very typical of on-song Arsenal. The Gunners had their flair, the Emirates Stadium had its voice and so the early advantage was deserved.

Within ten minutes, Theo Walcott produced a sublime chip right on the money after Fabregas’ penetrative flick had set him through.

Arsenal had really set themselves through in this quarter-final.

They owned the ascendancy and Van Persie’s poised free-kick nearly made it count dividends before Adebayor’s follow-up was almost helped home by Robert Pires with Gonzalo Rodriguez making a dubious off-line clearance.

But with the magic of away goals, Villarreal could still turn the tables against the home side at any given time. Rossi caught Arsenal in sixes and sevens before Pires shot with positive sight at goal but saw his targeted effort blocked away from a muddling Fabianski.

Godin hinted of a lingering yellow submarines when he headed just over from a corner during injury time of the first-half. Manuel Pellegrini’s men were resurrecting after the interval until one of various Van Persie provisions finally found Adebayor arriving right in danger zone.

The Togolese clinically side-footed the ball past Diego Lopez to send an already electrified Emirates Stadium into ecstasy.

Arsenal were booking a semi-final ticket now.

There was confirmation of a passage into the last and fantastic four of the competition when Godin was adjudged to have tripped down a sprinting Walcott.

Sebastian Eguren appeared most sickened by referee Wolfgang Stark’s decision, but could not win over the middle-man in the dispute and as result, was dismissed by a second caution.

And when Van Persie expertly converted the spot-kick, the daylight between the Gunners and yellow submarines beamed as bright as Villarreal’s out-fit.

Walcott, Van Persie and Adebayor were withdrawn for Diaby, Denilson and Bendtner respectively before former north London darling, Robert Pires absorbed some sympathy as well as appreciation from the warm crowd at the ground.

For the Gunners though, they might just be escalating the plaudits stage by stage in this competition with a familiar Mancunian trial to follow.

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Report: Wigan 1-4 Arsenal

By Randy Osae

Walcott vs WiganA terrific second-half revival saw Arsenal rob Wigan to stroll to a 4-1 victory which all but affirmed their place in the top four.

Steve Bruce’s side nearly pushed Wenger’s men to the limit, but yet again, the Gunners prevailed with class and character in an away league encounter. Arsenal had been digging deep today, but made it all look rampant and ridiculously emphatic on the scoreboard.

They do play like champions these days.

The Gunners’ physicality was expected to be examined today, and they failed the grade after 17 minutes – courtesy of a Wigan corner. With the swung delivery not completely cleared by Sagna’s header, Mido punished with a volley at a wobbling Fabianski who turned it into the net.

Following yet another early setback, Bendtner then took task on his shoulders to fire a faint header and then a taming low shot well wide.

But Arsenal’s misery was still mounting as Johan Djourou was stretched off the field with a knee injury on 35 minutes. The visitors were looking naive and teenager Kieran Gibbs was most culpable when he tangled down Valencia after the Ecuadorian attempted to race free with Arsenal’s back line stranded.

Indeed, Gibbs could only thank boons of his first ever Premier League start after referee Alan Wiley mercifully booked him with the home side arguing it was a red-card offense. Watson then curled the resulting free-kick onto the post with Fabianski looking as clueless as his stuttering teammates.

For the second game in a week, Arsenal were in need of another second-half resurgence.

Walcott finally let them out of jail after slick footwork between him and Arshavin inside the box handed the English forward some space to side-foot home his first goal since October.

The 20-year-old had done his job and so made way for Adebayor on 68 minutes with Arsenal inquiring a winner now.

Three minutes after that, Andrey Arshavin let through Fabregas who was penetrating into Wigan’s territory. The Spaniard sent in a low drive across goal and Silvestre needed a mere touch to guide it past Chris Kirkland.

Arshavin then curled a low effort onto the foot of the post only for Van Persie’s follow-up to be disallowed for offside. The Russian had been a focal part of Arsenal’s advances and lashed home a deserved goal after a late Arsenal counter-attack was dully broken up by Koumas.

There was still time for Song to complete the flattering riot by dancing through Wigan’s defense and firing home in injury time.

Another hint that Arsenal are well on-song.

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Report: Villarreal 1-1 Arsenal

By Randy Osae

adebayor vs villarrealLike their last European travel in Rome, Arsenal walked out of EL Madrigal slightly edging out shoulders tonight.

In what was perhaps a script of two halves, Arsenal erased an early reverse with a priceless and exceptional equalizer from Emmanuel Adeabyor which leveled and settled matters right in the favor of the Londoners.

This quarter-final is farther from being decided though – Villarreal proved an even match for Wenger’s men, and within eight days, either side will have reason to show up at the Emirates Stadium.

Villarreal’s ‘yellow submarines’ were swimming all over the Gunners right from first whistle. That was literally the event at the mouth of Arsenal’s goal in the opening minutes as Clichy and Almunia scrambled to prevent Rodriguez from poking home a lead for the home side.

However, Villarreal would not need to wait much longer to carefully land the ball into the back of the net.

Arsenal were giving too much respect to the imperious hosts and effectively Marcos Senna who was free to unleash a scorcher from 25-yards out on ten minutes. And Almunia was hapless.

First pluck went to Villarreal.

Even when chasing shadows, Arsenal were always irritated by the setback and so Walcott sprinted and fed Fabregas who teed up Nasri – free on the left – but the French youngster’s low effort was parried away. Gallas then headed on target but Diego Lopez met the ball.

With the contest now balancing, Wenger then faced yet another hindrance on the night. The latest was an in-pain Almunia who had suffered severe collisions with Villarreal’s attackers earlier on.

On came Fabianski who was alerted immediately but was outstanding in response.  First, he dived to his left to tip away Senna’s low drive and then provided a magnificent near post block to deny Joan Capdevila.

Soon, it was turn for another Arsenal veteran to hobble off. Gallas suffered more in a tangle with Giuseppe Rossi and eventually had to be replaced by Djourou just before the break.

That was when Arsenal grew desperate with their attempts even so that Fabregas could hardly wait for the referee’s whistle to perfectly curl home a free-kick. The Spaniard was booked and when he fouled Capdevila after the restart, that first-half caution nearly appeared sillier.

Arsenal had resumed their desperation after the break, and Adebayor nearly made the most of Walcott’s finding from the right.

Their retained urgency would pay off on 66 minutes.

Saturday’s techniques repeated – Cesc installing the bullet and Emmanuel pulling the trigger. Again, Fabregas floated in a ball for Adebayor on the edge of the box.

The Togolese controlled with his chest and with little aim, decided to exhibit his acrobatics. Adebayor’s bicycle kick stunned Diego Lopez who watched the ball travel into the low corner of the net just like the silenced spectators behind him. That sent it all back to even-steven…or perhaps advantage Arsenal with an often decisive away goal registered.

They had turned the tide theatrically and Arsenal were in pursuit of storming El Madrigal now. A second goal would do.

Nasri made a decent try with a shot. Then the man whose void he has been filling at Arsenal emerged from the sidelines. Robert Pires was introduced 20 minutes from time and then Walcott – later replaced by Eboue – made his final effort by blasting over after being set up by Fabregas.

Arsenal dictated play till referee Tom Henning Ovrebo decided to pause the chapter in this Champions League quarter-final with the margin not against today’s visitors at all.

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Report: Arsenal 2-0 Manchester City

By Randy Osae

https://i2.wp.com/d.yimg.com/eur.yimg.com/ng/sp/empics/20090404/15/3308506007-soccer-barclays-premier-league-arsenal-v-manchester-city-emirates-stadium.jpgRinging returns from Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor inspired Arsenal to another clean sweep past Manchester City today. The Spaniard, expert in provision with the Togolese registering aplomb finishes – handed Arsenal leeway in fourth place.

The duo literally combined in notching both goals – epitomizing their significance to this club – much to the lust of all lurking transfer shoppers around Europe.

Business has really resumed.

One thing Arsenal did learn from February’s consecutive blanks is that you do yourself no wrong as a team by netting early in a game of football.

Those experiments have worked at West Brom and against Blackburn recently and despite City attempting first through De Jong’s 20-yard effort, the pendulum swung Arsenal’s way as Fabregas swung in a free-kick on eight minutes.

Emmanuel Adebayor – fresh after his holidays – hardly had to leap to head home.

Once they net that early, Arsenal are always hinting of ruthlessness. Indeed, the constant fray at the visitors back line caused Wayne Bridge to hobble off with just 17 minutes played.

Then Mark Hughes’ men – waking back to life – sprinted into Arsenal’s territory with Wright-Phillips teeing up Richards whose shot was met by Almunia’s knee. The former Chelsea man repeated that surge and even better, found a free Fernandes who only had Arsenal’s stopper to beat.

But the Gunners remarkably escaped and even took momentum back into the dressing room after Arshavin nearly capitalized off a slick move with Song at the thick of the other end in first-half stoppage time.

Four minutes after the restart though, Arsenal were in total control.

Fabregas sent in a spectacular chip over Dunne and onto the foot Adebayor in the box. The Togolese intended to capitalize the cool way – rounding off Given and slotting the ball home.

Song’s header and Denilson’s 25-yard effort were among many tries which could have wiggled in for Arsenal’s third. But the visitors refused to completely back down as Zabaleta alerted Almunia with a long range effort.

With Tuesday’s traveling tickets for Villarreal already pulled out of pocket, Wenger had to conserve some energy and so on 70 minutes, Bendtner and Emmanuel Eboue came on for Adebayor and Walcott respectively.

The introduced pair were keen to add to the joy with Eboue vying to repeat his exploits in Arsenal’s last home league game.

It was soon time for Fabregas to get his own breather as Ramsey was handed a cameo. The Spaniard went off with grateful applauds coming from all around the Emirates and so did his colleagues after the final whistle.

Both parties had made quite a return to normal business.