Author Topic: Arsenal left Wembley last night even more convinced that there is no place like home. Barcelona, rut  (Read 14 times)


Arsenal left Wembley last night even more convinced that there is no place like home. Barcelona, ruthlessly exposing one of the Premier League's tightest defences, survived a stout Arsenal rally around half-time to beat Arsène Wenger's team 4-2. Philip Cocu put the game virtually beyond Arsenal's reach in the 70th minute from Josep Guardiola's long through-pass although Marc Overmars did reduce the winning margin towards the end. Barcelona, heavily Dutch-oriented these days, were returning to the scene of their European Cup triumph seven years earlier. But they had not beaten English opposition in England since routing Wolves 5-2 at Molineux in 1960 and last night the draw was an attractive option for Louis van Gaal's side. Their defence arranged in serried ranks, Barcelona defied Arsenal to take an early grip. Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp or Overmars might explore likely avenues but all they found at the outset were cul-de-sacs. Nwankwo Kanu started the game up alongside Bergkamp with Davor Suker, Arsenal's most in-form striker, on Fußballtrikots Kinder Inter Mailand the bench. This was less a reflection on Suker than a sign of Arsenal's need for patience and possession in the opening half-hour. In the event their patience ran out rather sooner. Free-kicks and corners, with Vieira and Tony Adams adding their height to the goalmouth crowd, presented obvious possibilities for Arsenal. The squareness of Arsenal's defence, however, was soon to bring joy to Barcelona. Just beyond the quarter-hour Arsenal were two down - to a controversial penalty, then to a marvellous piece of individualism by Luis Enrique, all in the space of two minutes. First Luis Enrique sent Cocu through a gap and, as the Dutchman overran the ball, Adams lunged across to knock it away. Cocu then went down over the Arsenal captain's outstretched leg and the Swiss referee, Urs Meier, awarded the penalty which Rivaldo firmly directed past David Seaman. Arsenal were outraged - apart from anything else the tackle appeared to take place in the penalty arc - and were still outraged when Barcelona scored again a minute later. With Martin Keown off the pitch receiving treatment Figo released Luis Enrique on the right wing. Nigel Winterburn was outpaced, Adams again came across but this time did not risk another sliding tackle and the Spaniard drove the ball into the far corner. Now Arsenal needed a swift response and within seconds Arnau had plunged at the feet of Fredrik Ljungberg after the Swede had broken through on the right. Midway through the half Kanu centred low from the right-hand byline and what happened next suggested Arsenal would struggle to score at all. First Arnau parried a shot from Overmars, then Adams, meeting the rebound from barely five yards, kicked the ball into the ground, allowing Arnau to make a second, and more unlikely, save. By the end of the half, however, they were promising an extraordinary comeback. Adams had just missed another opportunity, heading tamely to Arnau after a free-kick from Bergkamp Fußballtrikots Kinder Leverkusen had taken a deflection off the wall, when the Dutchman ended his two months without a goal. Kanu outwitted Sergi on the right before switching the ball across and back to Bergkamp, whose low shot beat Arnau. Stoppage time, for Barcelona's defenders, was a time for stopped hearts. Twice early in the second half Ljungberg could have brought the scores level but, having beaten Sergi, he shot into the side-netting and, after Bergkamp' sorcery had set him up in front of goal, Arnau cleverly denied him a shot. Arsenal remained optimistic but not for long. In the 56th minute Lee Dixon managed to knock the ball away from Patrick Kluivert but merely passed it square to Figo, who scored gratefully despite Seaman getting a touch. Arsenal (4-4-2): Seaman; Dixon, Keown, Adams, Winterburn; Ljungberg, Parlour, Vieira, Overmars; Bergkamp, Kanu. Barcelona (2-3-2-3): Arnau; Abelardo, Bogarde; Reiziger, Guardiola, Sergi; Luis Enrique, Cocu; Figo, Kluivert, Rivaldo. Referee: U Meier (Switzerland).
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