We're on our way: a live blog from China
Hectic in the rain and couldn't post until now.
Full-time scoreline: 1-1.
Easing into action slowly, going behind, chasing the game strongly with a combination of creative moves, wasteful shooting, bad luck and a good goalkeeping performance - sounds familiar doesn't it?
My Gooner mates keep saying it's blessing in disguise - we concede rather easily even when we face far inferior opponents which should force Wenger's hands into buying someone better and improving our organisation at the back.
Sounds all so familiar. :)
21:22 After the final whistle, as both sets of players are going around applauding the fans, a fan jumps over the low fence and runs across field - we thought towards some of the players - straight at the bench, with stewards and guards chasing after him. After a bit of scrambling he gets caught. Funny episode, on which I comment, "He runs faster than Arshavin!"
21:18 Just when we're saying "Oh there we go again" in view of the pass after pass around their box without any meaningful penetration, Miyaichi cuts inside to take a shot on his right foot (not the first time), forcing the keeper to dive very quickly to his left for a great save.
Sounds familiar again eh?
21:13 Vermaelen works hard to keep the ball in play and moves it forward quickly to Miyaichi who squares it smartly to Chamakh. "Arghhh!" we all groan, all heads in hands in disbelief, as the Greentown keeper seems to have pulled off yet another good save.
Why do all keepers playing us have the games of their lives??
21:09 Ryo sends a rare great cross from the left flank, albeit with only Theo in position to head it over the bar. If only it was Chamakh...
21:03 Theo's shot goes wide...
21:00 An upfield pass to Jack starts a good combination with a good shot from Theo - or is it Ramsey? - blocked and going wide for corner.
20:56 Thomas Vermaelen starts a move by passing forward to Gibbs, who skips past two defenders pretty coolly before the defenders force him to give a pass to Chamakh, the move ending with a shot saved and failing to convert the rebound.
Nice work though. Much better in the second half!
20:52 Young Ryo has looked clever indeed so far. Receiving the ball on the left, he lays it off fr Chamakh to shoot it at the keeper.
They didn't announce the changes on the board, Whig doesn't even have the time of the match, so I didn't even realise Chamakh's there until this point.
20:50 Ball upfield sees Miyaichi chest it down, creating space for Gibbs to shoot but the keepr just about palms it away.
20:49 Song makes a perfectly good clearance but red blows for free kick. For once we're quite solid and clears the ball for counter-attack.
Funny to see te players in shirts bearing their Chinese names.
20:41 A neat move upfield started by Song, a thoughtful pass to the left sees Miyaichi make space for himself with a good turn but the Greentown defender clears the ball away.
20:35 Second half underway. A few changes by the boss: Song, Wilshere, Theo, Ramsey and Miyaichi in; Nasri, Arshavin, Vela, Frimpong and Rosicky out.
20:07 It's Nasri again. After a good string of good passes, Nasri's half-volley is just off target leaving the crowd groaning and applauding at the same time.
19:50 Contrary to claims that he's uninterested and wants to leave, Nasri is playing well with skill and in good spirits. Bursting into Greentown's penalty box with decent tricks that end with a good shot just off target.
19:47 Hangzhou Greentown 1-0 Arsenal
Sorry I can't even put the scorer's name on the record as I don't know. Will check afterwards. Just one ball in on their right hand side with Traore shaken off, Number 21 of Greentown, clear on goal, takes a shot and it's in. Quite typical I'm afraid, isn't it?
19:45 Oh dear oh dear, how can the first corner be a Greentown one?! As usual, we're a bit disorganised at the back and we somehow scramble the ball way...
Earlier on Greentown already took a shot that hit the post with all the space on earth available to them...
19:40 Hey I'm back. Raining a bit less now. 10 minutes into the game, we've surprisingly seen a couple of neat moves down our left hand side already!
Team line-up: Szczesny;, Vermaelen, Djourou, Sagna; Frimpong, Rosicky, Nasri; Arshavin, Vela and Van Persie.
18:30 While my Gooner mates are dozing off in front of me in the car, I'm just wondering how much of my wish list could be fulfilled today:
First thing of course is to see our team in action. The team's marketing partner in China made it a tad too transparent in my humble opinion as they claimed it's Arsenal's obligation to bring in all first-team players who're not injured or sold as of July. Oh Cesc is injured at the moment, right, disappointing. But we're very happy to see a mix of big guns and young players, including youngsters Jack, Theo and Ryo Miyaichi, who already impressed people in Makaysia earlier this week.
The "insert link" isn't working on iPad... Let me just put the link here for those who're interested in the Japanese youngster:
Another thing I'd like to bring home is the couple of Arsenal shirts I pre-ordered through a friend in touch with Hangzhou Greentown, the Gunners' opponents tonight. They promised "player-signed shirts," hence my order. Will see.
This friend of mine has been trying to get more out of this visit. So much so that he bragged to one of the local organisers about the fact that one of our group of Gooners here is an Arsenal shareholder who would dearly love to briefly meet the team and take a picture with them before or after the game. Nope, he just said. Okay, fair enough.
As I write, it's starting to rain here. Now it's all cats and dogs... Afraid the team brought the London weather with them. My other wish now is of course: please, stop raining please!
17:33 More on the little museum while we're driving from Hangzhou to Yiwu for the match:
As we're looking for the entrance, we see the miniature replica of the standing concrete "ARSENAL" blocks in front of the Grove. Not as huge and tucked among some trees, they tell us where we are nonetheless, and fill us with excitement as to what would be on display here, half the Earth away from London.
Failing to produce the tickets, we're a bit worried that we might have to leave empty-handed having come into Hangzhou through such horrible traffic. The young guy in Nike shirt keeps telling us that we have to register online and come here with the printed ticket tomorrow morning. We keep telling them we've come in just for this and just for today. The other more senior-looking guy kindly says, "Let them in, not many visitors right now anyway." Yay!
Greeting us as the first exhibit is the familiar-looking pair of cannons at the centre of the hall. Behind it is the big team picture mounted on the wall, signed by the boss Arsene Wenger (who just finished a press conference here), Marouane Chamakh, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Wojciech Szczesny. My Gooner mate commented on the lack of a RvP autograph, "Maybe the big guns didn't have to come here and do this sort of work."
On one side is a series of items commemorating special events like winning the Doubles, the Herbert Chapman era, etc. as well as shirts and boots paying tribute to legends like Bergkamp, Adams and Henry.
On the other side is a mini dressing room-style wall with the first team's shirts on display. (Phew, Cesc's name is still there.) Refreshing to see their Chinese names on the back of the shirts. Pronounced as "Fan Pei Xi" in Mandarin for example is our star striker Robin's name translated. Ironically for a Chinese Gooner like me though, these translations sound distinctly unfamiliar as I only know the players by their Chinese names in Cantonese, which for RvP is something like "Won Pui See." Don't laugh, I still can't understand Mainland Chinese commentators on TV very well having lived in Shanghai for two years...
In the middle sit a few sets of memorabilia around events like the Community Shield in 2004, the Invincibles, leaving Highbury for the Emirates Stadium, etc. Glory glory days.
Nothing exceptionally precious there to be honest. But it's nice for Chinese Gooners to have a chance to relive some of the club's historic moments away from home.
16:33 The reason why I disappeared for a while - I've just finished a short visit to the Arsenal Museum at Huanglong Stadium. A temporary exhibition quite nicely done by Nike and the Chinese partner that's bringing the team into China.
We arrived at 4pm local time, just missed the boss and the local fans following them around at the pre-match press conference. Oh if only I came straight here without going back home to get my glasses and camera... If only the traffic in Hangzhou had been just a tiny bit better... We would've seen the boss on his way out.
Back in the car, we're off to Yiwu.
15:50 Just got a tweet from a Gooner on Twitter asking about the kick-off time. How could I forget! Kick-off at 19:30 local time, 12:30 GMT everyone. Not sure if they're broadcasting the game. If you guys know, feel free to post info in the comments, but no links to online streams please.
Meanwhile, we've just hit Hangzhou. Traffic is bad as usual. The game is actually held at a ground called Meihu Stadium in Yiwu, a smaller town near Hangzhou. But we're coming here first to see the Arsenal exhibition on display in Hangzhou.
15:30 As the traffic gets worse, we know we're closing in on Hangzhou now! :D Is there an equivalent of Hangzhou in England I wonder, where poets left their picturesque impressions of the natural scenery, where kings and emperors came for the beautiful West Lake as much as for beautiful women, where historic events, great men and women, legends and myths fill Chinese history and literature textbooks, where the affluent population has long outgrown the ancient city with the highest per-capita income in China, leaving this small, old, gorgeous city full of expensive cars in the midst of bad traffic and air pollution.
15:16 Just received a tweet from LD asking if I was going to the game today. My reply: "Yes on our way indeed! Also posting a sort of live blog on @VitalArsenal We're all buzzing!" Lovely to be in touch with mates from all over the world despite the Great Firewall of China (where awesome things like Facebook and Twitter are blocked in case you didn't know such places exist in the world). Hail VPN!
15:15 Natural break at Jiaxing. I took a silly picture of fellow traveling Gooner Raymond in red and white in front of the loo.
15:07 A rare away trip in China! It's funny to see the blue dot moving in the Google map after leaving Shanghai. I've never followed the Arsenal on an away trip in England before. Funny how I'm doing it in China of all places.
14:20 Long time no see my fellow Gooners! :) It's been a while since we last chatted here, and it's been a while since we last saw the Arsenal in action. All buzzing today, as we speak (or as I type), I'm enjoying the 280 km ride from Shanghai to Hangzhou - a small town called Yiwu just off Hangzhou to be precise - to see the Gunners up close!
I will keep updating this page with what I see and feel today. Not sure if this is the first live blog here on Vital Arsenal. Funny to see my posts going bottom up.
Not sure how to insert images here with my iPad/iPhone... I'll keep posting pictures on Twitter and you can see them here:
Back-posting my tweets here to complete the log:
14:04 Me singing: 'We're on our way, We're on our way, We're going to Hangzhou, We're on our way, How we get there we don't know, How we get there we don't care, All I know is we're on our way...'
13:10 Me dressed as a proper Gooner make do without my red and white @arsenal shirt in my Shanghai home! (See picture on my tweet...)
13:05 Rushed home to add my camera and glasses to my already heavy bag. I remember the pain of trying to make out who's who on the pitch in quite a few large European stadiums before. Despite the relatively small size of the ground we're visiting today, I won't be making the same mistake again!
13:00 Finished my lunch in 10 minutes, off to Hangzhou to see the Gunners!
10:38 So hot today, good for football! Hoping it's even nicer in Hangzhou where we'll see the @arsenal!