If ever a match could be described as ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ this was it. Exciting it wasn’t, but of course we didn’t know that at kick of time so the crowd were in good voice, as when what seemed like the entire stadium gave a rendition of ‘By far the greatest team the world has ever seen’. The difference between this and previous renditions in years past being a far larger element of truth involved in the lyrics. ‘Champions’ ‘Stand up for the Champions’ and all the expected variations were chanted throughout as nothing much was happening on the pitch. Dunn proved himself to be a niggly little sh*te who managed to irritate more than one player in red, how he didn’t get sent off, never mind booked is beyond me. Savage did get booked of course.
‘We won the League at White Hart Lane’ Gilberto’s neat back heel was clipped well over by Dennis. Dennis to Pat, to Jose who was just wide with his shot after making space well. We played good one touch stuff early on but didn’t go up through the gears often enough to cause major problems. Morrison backing into Jens was spotted by Poll, a difficult one to miss even for Graham Poll though. Freddie was taken out by Johnson, I think this was when Johnson got his yellow. A great cross by Dennis was met with a great right-foot volley by Reyes, but it flashed just wide. Jens was out well to beat Morrison to the ball, Henry, Bergkamp and Reyes countered well. The Champions were playing like champions but there were no serious threats to the Brummies goal. Pat left Savage on his arse as he steamed forward to huge approval. ‘Vieira’
Pat on another run and he won another free kick which was fired well over by Henry. Difficult to play football against a team who won’t come over the half way line but then Steve Bruce appears to the new George Graham when it comes to defending. We looked a tad too laid back. Dunn went dangerously into the back of Pat, the sort of thing Pat has received numerous red cards for but Poll didn’t even book the ****. Pat refused to accept the apology. Good. Dunn hacked Ljungberg and Savage hacked Dennis a second later, but advantage was played to no real purpose. Dunn had an obvious dive around the box and Poll bought it. Savage hit his free kick into the wall. We responded with a poor shot by Thierry from range at the other end.
Arsenal kicked towards the North Bank in the second half and got as far as second gear on occasions but Brum were playing with a fourteen man defence, or so it seemed. Meanwhile the **** in row 16 of the West lower ambled back three minutes late, disrupting all and sundry yet again, the selfish ****! Edu, I think it was in the executive boxes received massive acclaim from the Clock End. Savage made a nasty tackle on Vieira for a yellow card. ‘You’re not fit to lick his boots’ presumably aimed at Savage, but it could have been aimed at Dunn or Johnson or anyone in a blue shirt or anyone in a black shirt, or even Bruce in a grey top. ‘We won the League at White Hart Lane’. Morrison clattered Lehmann who dropped the ball but Cole cleared and the free kick went our way anyway. Our subs warmed up ‘Keown, there’s only one Keown’ ‘Super, super Rob’.
Arsenal won a free kick ten yards beyond the penalty area and Thierry fired this one close but wide. Great move involving Reyes almost got Freddie free. Freddie put Reyes away, who crossed for Kolo, who very nearly got there. ’71 –2004’ Eleven men back for Birmingham – just imagine I repeat that statement for all but about two minutes of the second half and you’ll get the picture. Reyes down the left but there was no support. Henry can’t read Reyes and Reyes can’t read Henry, either that or they don’t want to read one another, bit of a worry that! A brilliant cross in by Dennis from a free kick. Clemence stretched Jens for the only time in the match with a speculative shot. Keeper out to take on the edge of their box to a huge handball claim from the Arsenal crowd.
We had some more attacks but without massive conviction and Dennis squeezed through and might have won a penalty. Best moment of the match for me was seeing Keown warm up and waiting to come on for what seemed like ages. With a few minutes remaining Ray Parlour, with the obvious collaboration of the entire bench sprinted past him warming up. Martin fell for the con and after they’d all laughed at him he made a mock attack on Arsene before finally coming on with 13 seconds remaining to replace Dennis.
So all in all it was a bore draw and a useful point for Brum, who must count themselves’ very lucky to have played us when they did. Our incredible unbeaten run has now stretched to a massive 35 games. Can we go the whole way? Who knows, we certainly deserve to and I hope to be there for the remaining matches to find out. I hope I’m wrong but I’ve had a gut feeling about it ending at Pompey for quite a while now and they are certainly the form side of the Premiership – along with the Champions of course.
Great word that isn’t it? Champions! Don’t think I’ll tire of using it all summer, or all next season.