Arsenal 0 Inter 3: Thank goodness for Kolo

Last updated : 18 September 2003 By Brian Dawes

Toure tackles Martins
When Scotland's greatest ever club side defied the odds to gain a great victory in Portugal. On that night Inter Milan were a totally defensive team, and I expected nothing other than that tonight from last season's beaten semi-finalists.

Twice European Champions in the early 1960's Inter have the pedigree for Europe, they needed little of that tonight. Tonight they must have had one of their easier European matches because they won at a canter, I won't say without breaking sweat because they worked hard. They defended well tonight but not outlandishly, and certainly no more than you’d expect from an Italian team away from home. Arsenal huffed and puffed and built numerous reasonable attacks, but we never grabbed them by the throat and shook them rigid. Reasonable attacks were never going to cut it with against a half decent Italian defence. The fact that we were the better team for twenty-two minutes counts for nothing because we didn’t break them down and hardly ever looked like breaking them down. They simply left Cruz and the very speedy Nigerian forward Martins up front. Martins didn’t even get his number mentioned in the match day programme. Which begs the question why did I pay £2.50 for a bl**dy programme if it doesn’t even give me the full squad for the opposition? Up front they were effective, elsewhere they closed us down immediately in midfield cutting off the supply line for fast breaks. If we looked like breaking we were fouled whenever we were not closed down immediately. So what else did we expect?

Tonight’s ref Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez went the entire game without use of cards, he waved advantage whenever we were chopped on the edge of their box and gave them a free kick when ever we chopped them. The assistant ref in front of the West Stand for the first half was either pants or collecting a sizeable bung. He ignored three clear offsides before allowing the fourth from which Cruz scored, ironically this followed shortly after a good Arsenal move had just ended with a Wiltord offside. Wiltord caught offside, now there’s a shock! Their second came soon after the first when a good cross from their left skimmed Sol’s head and was volleyed home beautifully by Van Der Meyde from a narrow angle fairly wide right. Lehman got hands on it, I think, but rockets are hard to stop. A piss poor ball from Pires, not his first or his last, set up their third which Martins stabbed home and then celebrated with some brilliant back flips. The score was 0-3 but the game was over at 0-2.

Between the second and third goals Toldo saved a penalty from Henry. Freddie won it going nowhere. The kick was delayed for a ridiculous amount of time and there should have been two yellow cards for time-wasting at this point but of course there wasn’t. No blame can be attributed to Lehmann for any of the goals and Kolo was absolutely brilliant all night. He made just one mistake late in the match but also made three do or die tackles which had red card written all over them if not timed to perfection. Henry gave his all, as did Vieira. The rest were pretty pitiful. Pires and Wiltord should have been embarrassed to appear after the break and if Wenger thinks that Pires deserved to be wearing a red and white shirt for the second half I cannot for the life of me figure out why. Inter had three shots on target and scored three goals. We had nine on target and didn’t look like scoring once.

Martens beats Sol to score their third
After the break our first move broke down with Pires and he got worse. Ljungberg tried as did Pat, Thierry and Ashley but collectively we were not at the races. If I’d had a book with me I probably would have read it instead of watching the painful proceedings on the pitch after the break. Kanu who was as bad as Pires and managed to miss from point blank range replaced Gilberto and Bergkamp who also could have scored replaced Pires. Parlour eventually replaced Wiltord.

Kolo Toure was our best player by a mile and without him it might have been six-nil. Kallon on for Cruz hit the post in the four minutes added time, which we also had to endure. Quite a few Gooners applauded Inter off the pitch and they deserved it but they are not a brilliant team. The Spanish referee’s principle reason for talking to players in the second half was to get them to tuck their shirts in, how sad is that? This despite an appallingly late high tackle by Cruz on Kolo, and some very similar ‘revenge’ by Bergkamp on Materazzi when he left a foot in shortly afterwards. Either might have been a red card job. Our forward efforts throughout the match were not up to scratch so I see no reason why I should be bothered to report them. I've made a point of slagging off Pires but do not hold him personally responsible for a fairly woeful team effort, it's just that I couldn't see the point of him being allowed to continue on the pitch after the break.

Please kick some arse Mr Wenger, I do not want to be subjected to such an embarrassment again this season but if you have no plan ‘B’ I fully expect to find myself suffering like that again. Changes were required at half time, if not before.