Date:Thursday March 30 2006
28th March 7:45pm
Attendance: 35,000 Extatic Gooners
Long journey's rarely do much for the pre-match nerves, but the fact we had both legs of the Real Madrid clash playing on the coaches video player turned me into a jibbering wreck, the journey terminating outside 'The WhiteHouse' perfectly in tune with the final whistle at Highbury. Brought back some good (recent) memories.
After teaming up with 'Big Dave' in the Gunners for a few pre-match beers I made my way to my seat. The atmosphere round The Home Of Football was electric, you could just sense something special in the air.
And special it was.
After dispatching Real Madrid from the tournament I thought we may have used all our best football up for this seasons competition, I mean, how much longer could this cobbled together defence hold out??
As it turns out, another 90 minutes.
Ibrahimovic had a pretty poor freekick attempt early on, deflecting off the awesome Fabregas for a corner. Juventus started with intent, but thankfully it came to nothing.
A smart backheel from Pires played in Fabregas who beat Vieira (not for the last time) before screwing the ball painfully wide, but now Arsenal were showing signs of starting to click. The passing was coming together again.
Henry took one of his trademark quick free kicks whilst Buffon was preparing the wall, but this time he wasn't his usual acurate self. Getting closer.
Another freekick, this time Henry was made to wait but with the same result. Close, but not close enough.
Juventus came back to try and knock a rapidly improving Arsenal from their stride. Some nice interchanging passes down the Old Ladies right wing,was then played inside to the former Arsenal captain who had the ball forcefully taken from him by a tackle straight out of the Tony Adams handbook, strangly enough however, it was Bobby Pires doing the tackling. I rubbed my eyes, took another look, asked the bloke next to me if he had just seen what I'd seen. It was true. Pires with a blinding tackle, he gathered the ball and sent the current Arsenal captain on his way. Henry took his time, composed himself a found Fabregas in space on the edge of the area, he turned, shot, rolled the ball past a static Buffon who was powerless to stop the ball creeping in and sending the Highbury faithful mental.
Just what the doctor ordered. We were on our way. Confidence oozed through this young Arsenal side, which in turn found it's way into the crowd. To say it was quite loud would be the understatement of the century.
Two minutes later could, and should have been two nil. Some smart defending finished with Henry being played in over the top, beating the defence, Henry found himself in a position in which he usually thrives, but once again rolled the ball just past the far post.
More of the same. Buffon save smartly from Henry, Fabregas and Hleb.
Reyes worked tirelessly for the cause, the constant thorn is Juve's side, his turn of pace and trickery troubling them everytime he touched the ball.
There was more still to come. Hleb threaded the ball through to the ever present Cesc, and with Buffon bearing down on him, he unselfishly pulled the ball square to find Henry with the empty goal at his mercy. But wait, he'd pulled the ball back too far and it almost got past Henry, but with his quick feet he controlled the ball with one touch and smashed the ball home with his second.
After beating Madrid, we had been told by all and sundry that Juventus would prove too much, but here we were, 2-0 up and it should have been more.
Paddy got himself booked and will miss the second leg, as will Zebina and Camoranesi who were both dismissed for two yellow cards in a crazy last ten minutes.
Vieira was clapped and sang off the pitch, which probably had a hint of smugness from the Arsenal fans.
That was it. The job is half done.
Roll on next week.
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Date:Thursday March 30 2006
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