Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday October 24 2007
This is a game that defies analysis in many ways, but those of us in attendance at the Grove last night were served footballing caviar....on diamond encrusted cuttlery, with dancing girlies gyrating in front of us. Probably. What is clear is that Slavia are not on our level, however, that is not to dismiss the magnitude of the result or the performance. How many 7-0 scorelines do you see in the Champions' League nowadays? Not many and the manner in which we put Prague to the sword was really quite impressive.
In a match as uneven as this one int erms of quality, an early goal for the home side is imperitive, and Arsenal delivered a lip smacking apiterif of what was to come. Alex Hleb collected a Gael Clichy pass down in the by the left corner flag, teased a couple of Praha defenders, before biding his time and delivering a precise diagonal ball to Fabregas on the edge of the box, as soon as the space opened up there was only one result as Cesc duly curled the ball into the corner with barely five minutes played. With the home side at the top of their form, there was only ever going to be one result as Slavia gave the Gunners room to strut their stuff. A second arrived before the quarter hour watershed, when Fabregas' corner found its way to Alex Hleb on the back post and the Belarussian's left foot shot deflected in off of some Prague defender or another. Adebayor's header from a Clichy cross was smartly saved. Emmanuel Eboue nearly scored the goal of the century, flicking the ball over the ehad of the left back, before hitting a deliberate forty yard volley from the touchline which whistled just wide. But a third arrived before half time. The Praha left back, for some reason, contrived to smash a pass back venomously towards his own keeper, who panicked and attempted to connect on the full toss with Walcoitt baring down. His clearance was miscued and fell straight to Theo who showed commendable composure to skip round the stranded goalie and slot into an empty net for his first home goal in the red and white of Arsenal. The keeper's blunder put one in mind of Lehmann's indiscretion in Kyiv four years ago. It would turn out that Lehmann would commit another horrific blunder, this time without even playing.
At this point I was begging Arsene to remove Fabregas and Adebayor from the action, a warm cup of cocoa and a huge swab of cotton wool on the bench welcoming them. Arsene had other ideas and Arsenal did not relent. Prague looked a little more determined in the early minutes of the second period, closing down the midfielders with more gusto. But another goal early in the second half put paid to their new found vigour as the lactic acid kicked in. Fabregas and Hleb were twin pivots as ever. The former sweeping a delightful ball over to Hleb on the left hand side, who feinted past two defenders before delivering a low shot with his right foot which easily beat the keeper. In the past, many have criticised Hleb's hesitation in front of goal, but it's worth pointing out that, on this occasion, playing on the left, he was able to cut in on his favoured right foot and made no mistake. The fifth was a byword from an era passed. Cesc Fabregas and Alex Hleb linked up again to play Theo Walcott in through the left channel, with renewed confidence, young Theo skipped towards goal with gazelle like poise before delivering a beautiful low finish from the angle. Those of you who suffer from cateracts would have been forgiven for thinking that the Henry of 2004 had briefly ghosted his way back into our side.
If the fifth had a touch of Henry about it, the sixth had the grubby paw print of the invincibles all over it. Prague won a corner, which Arsenal duly cleared. Tonight Matthew Alex Hleb was Robert Pires as he raced down the left toucline, leaving his defender for dead. He looked inside to Dennis Adebayor, who wonderfully wrong footed his man by opening his body out and delivering a short pass to Thierry Walcott, a deft touch from the Franglish striker/ winger was timed to perfection for Freddie Fabregas' perfectly timed run and sweet finish. It was a goal of footballing genius and the epitome of a team that is loving playing together at the moment, the audible gasps at every point of the move were punctuated by a raptuous applause from an appreciative crowd. If that goal was sex, it would have been a six way gangbang with Girls Aloud. Total football at its finest, and a goal you will never see at Stamford Bridge.
Walcott had the taste for more and was narrowly denied a hat trick. Cesc Fabregas' perfectly weighted cross found Walctt, but his close range effort was thwarted by an instinctive save from Vaniak. Rosicky dummied his way past an onrushing defender for the rebound, but smashed his effort against the bar. The seventh was typically executed with panache. Bendtner drifted wide to the left, played the ball into Eboue, who delivered a deft back heel, Bendtner ran onto it and dinked the ball over Vaniak. Slightly concerning that he celebrated the goal largely on his lonesome, with his team mates more eager to acknowledge Eboue. Bendtner noticeably did not join in the huddle at the end of the match either. Walcott ran onto a Toure ball, but screwed a volley well wide. But the final whistle was greeted with hige sighs of relief, seven nil is a dangerous lead in football, but Praha's late comeback would not materialise. It's a great set up for Sunday, especially with Liverpool playing a must win tie in Turkey tonight. But Praha are clearly a long stick short of Liverpool's standard and we will have to guard against overconfidence. But if you'd have given me 7-0 before kick off, I might just have taken it.LD.
Date:Wednesday October 24 2007
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