Gilberto got in an early shot and Freddie had his ankles tapped on the edge of their box. Guess who took it? Yes he did and he hit it over. It was obvious early on though that this wouldn't be one way traffic as the men in blue were up for it. They were also up for the odd dive and the sly shove which were not picked up by Lucillo Cardosa Cortez Baptista, the big on names but short on whistle Portuguese ref. Pires to Ljungberg but well blocked. Dennis to Freddie and he tried one from a narrow angle that went past the far post. A low shot by Onischenko was easy for Jens.
Dynamo Kyiv were back in numbers when it mattered, and it mattered quite a lot. Pires had a shot from a narrow angle but their keeper wasn't really being worked. Cole knew he'd been in a heavy tackle. The injured Onischenko was replaced by Sablic. Freddie to Dennis who went in on the keeper who still managed to clear. A spell of continuous pressure won us another corner from which their keeper missed his punch. Kolo had another immense match tonight and I reckon he's about ready to take on the Wycombe Wanderers manager's old number six shirt. At the sharp end we were not as emphatic. Granted we were being held and shoved but that's what happens in Europe.
A great diagonal ball from Cole to Pires saw Rob force a save at the near post for another corner. Cole wanted it all night, he was very combative and looked to get forward given half a chance. Gilberto got caught out in defence and earned a booking rather than let his man get away. Kolo 'give him the six shirt' Toure came forward in odd, but effective bursts and found Henry who shot wide on the turn. Henry was in a bit of a moaning mood tonight and in the second half seemed to be having verbals with someone in the Junior Gunners in the front of the West Stand. Thierry we love you to bits, but we're entitled to get frustrated, so if some prat has a go just ignore them.
Pires was seemingly flattened in the box and it had to be a either a goal kick or a penalty from my angle, so of course we got a corner. From the corner Gilberto's header deep at the far post was well cleared off their line. Kolo then set up Parlour who's shot was saved. Gilberto was hurt during an Arsenal break. Kolo off down the middle again and Pires went just wide. Thierry picked it up from a rebound but his break ended with a shot over with his left. Leko had a hopeless punt from distance that hit the back of the North Stand. Great ball in from Lauren who continues to improve for my money. Freddie to Gilberto who almost made it. I don't understand why fans have a pop at Gilberto, makes no sense to me, the man's doing his job and for the most part doing it extremely well.
Arsenal were not quite doing their job though. We'd had a lot of huffing and a lot of puffing but no one's house was about to be blown down like this. Forty-five minutes gone and I don't recall us seriously bothering their keeper.
Our options on the bench included Stack, Aliadiere, Wiltord, Kanu, Clichy, Edu and Cygan. Wiltord for Bergkamp with twenty to go looked a banker at this stage. Kyiv headed wide from a deep cross before Dennis was tripped. This allowed Henry to shoot from long range but it went well over. A Henry flick on header found Dennis who saw the ball come back off the keepers shins and it began to look like one of those nights. Pires almost immediately had a run in from the right and slid one just past the far post. Husev shoved Cole and the free kick from wide left saw Ray volley one over.
Two important tackles from Lauren and Toure in defence before Lauren found Pires who headed over once more. Twenty-two to go and Wiltord replaced Ljungberg who maybe had to shoot off to Selfridges or something. Shatskikh off Nanni on. Kolo picked up a yellow card for not a lot near the halfway line. Sixteen to go and Kanu replaced Parlour. Dennis who hadn't quite set the world alight was still on the pitch, shock, horror exclusive. Frustration oozed around the ground and on the pitch. Henry had a hit and hope but he was looking moody rather than magnificent. A storming Cole solo set the crowd off again. A serious Cole tackle on the edge of our box looked crucial. Time-wasting was rife by now and who can blame them. The shirt was just about hauled off Kanu's back in their box but I doubt whether a centre back with a twelve bore shotgun would have impressed the ref enough to award a penalty.
It was well beyond kitchen sink time with Kolo doing an Adams up front. And so it came to pass that with eighty-eight minutes gone Wiltord took out a sand iron and chipped one into the box. Henry jumped high and got a good flick on and Cole who was steaming in on pure adrenaline slung himself at it in the way only a died in the wool Arsenal hero could and connected perfectly with his head. I don't know if he ended in the net with the ball because I was punching the air about twelve foot in the air myself at this point. 1-0 to the Arsenal and total relief oozed around the ground.
A Henry shot from the edge of the box. Edu on for Dennis with eight seconds to play and three minutes of added time to endure. A delighted crowd left Highbury but I'm not sure how delighted Arsene will be with our inability to seriously trouble their keeper until so late in the game. Having said that we did work hard for it and Cole, above others, looked like he just wanted it too much not to get it. He looks like captain material to me.
So despite resisting throughout I just have to get it off my chest before tomorrow mornings all too obvious headlines. There were no real fireworks at Highbury but Cole had a sparkler.