There was varied team news today with Pennant out of the reckoning, Edu on his way or not, Gilberto still out long term, Kolo suspended, Lehmann bought in for the Cup tie, Freddie fit again, old man Bergkamp being prepared for Tuesday, Pires rested and Henry playing a rare F A cup tie. Cygan, Reyes, Van Persie, Clichy and Eboue all started.
Mike ‘the Manc penalty provider’ Riley was booed on to the pitch by three quarters of the ground, although I didn’t join in because I was too busy hurling abuse in his general direction. Wolves kicked off towards the North Stand and the first foul, as is usually the case, was on Vieira, with Lescott taking the honours. Arsenal started at half pace and allowed the lively Korean forward Seol the first shot, which was on target from range.
Reyes had a shot well over following a fine tackle on his part. Our first penalty appeal was when Clichy went down in the box but mine was not the best view. Naylor had a wild shot well off target and then Olofinjana had a charge down the middle as Arsenal remained a bit half-paced. Campbell showed some great skills before putting Henry away but he was caught offside. A long range shot from Kennedy that was easy for Lehmann preceded our second penalty appeal. Eboue, who like most Wenger questions looks exceedingly comfortable on the ball and faster than a speeding bullet, stormed into the box and was upended going past his man. From my angle this was a rock-solid stonewall cert of a penalty, but not for Riley. The give-away for me was that the Gold clad fans behind the goal didn’t go apeshit as most do at the merest hind of a dive, because this wasn’t.
Clichy went down, seemingly off the ball, which is of no real account other than providing an excuse to point out that this was the 1000th appearance of a much loved Gooner who arrived to administer treatment. Many congratulations Gary Lewin.
Freddie on the left cutback a pass for Reyes that appeared to be blocked by an arm, penalty appeal three? More speed form Eboue who set up a Van Persie shot that was saved at the expense of a corner. Clichy to Reyes also resulted in a corner. Next up a Henry cross that the West Stand, being nearest, shouted was a handball. So that’s four shouts then. Wolves proved they were still in the match when Seol pressured Sol into conceding a corner. This was before Eboue once more stormed forward with a series of step-overs and proved his two-footed ability by firing a left-footed shot in against the bar, which came back in the general direction of Henry.
Flamini to Van Persie who’s headed flick onto Reyes was met with a shot that deflected for another corner. Van Persie’s inswinger was headed over the bar by a defender. At the other end Flamini was called upon to clear a ball that should have had keeper written all over it but Jens remained rooted. Olofinjana headed wide from a Wolves short corner routine, their best chance so far.
The outstanding Oakes was made to look a total mug when he tossed forward a ball to hoof upfield. Henry nicked it whist between hand and boot and sprinted into the net with it. Disallowed by Riley, rightly in this case because you can’t kick a ball whilst it’s in the keeper’s possession. Brilliant skill though and enough to nark Henry who though that Riley was a ****. Well he is Tel, but he was right this time. ‘We’ve got the worse ref in the world’ was one I don’t think I’d heard before. Lescott backed into Cygan looking for a pen and judging by the number of times Pascal put his arm into the back of Wolves players might have got one, given the ref in question.
Ince fell over whilst attempting to turn and won a free kick wide right, Henry had words with the lino. ‘Feck off Riley’ was the more direct response from the Gooners. Steam was still coming out of ears as the smokers in the crowd rushed off for their half-time fix.
Arsenal kicked off and Eboue put us under pressure with a poor ball that fell behind Olofinjana, I think, from their cross in from the right. Both teams looked livelier and Arsenal’s breaks were faster. An Eboue cross went for a corner and Pat’s header on target was well saved by Oakes, Pat felt he’d been shoved though. When Reyes took a ball into the box he was clearly held and pulled around a cert penalty not given by the man with the white stick who was in perfect position. For me it was a more obvious pen than the trip on Henry that happened in the same move. Riley gave that one.
As is our way the man tripped does not take the pen so up stepped Pat as Tel limped away. The shot was low to the keeper’s right and it was at long last 1-0 to the Arsenal. We followed up with an onslaught which required some brilliant keeping from Oakes. Reyes to Van Persie to Ljungberg whose shot was saved well. Next up a fabulous shot on the turn by Robin had the keeper at full stretch to palm away but Freddie followed it up and shot from point blank range only to see Oakes' strong arm intervene. Excellent stuff.
Jens made an easy catch and at the other end Van Persie played a killer ball to Thierry from the halfway line on the turn, as is customary on these occasions Tel stormed in from the left but Oakes stood his ground well and made another great save. Riley continued to prove what a total prat he was when Reyes was clearly tripped on a run in front of the West Stand. Play went on until Wolves kicked it out of play so Reyes could have treatment on the foot that Riley claimed had not been touched.
Wolves had a crap shot from Seol to prove they were still there, it was of course still only 1-0 and this was a Cup-tie. Ince was both high and late on Cygan. Riley then missed a shove by Cygan before Reyes was replace by Pires who at first seemed to be going through the motions but who later joined in the match. One amusing incident was when it took about ten shoves in the back before Henry tumbled forward in slow motion to show Riley what he was in fact missing. The free kick was awarded and Tel gave Riley a deep piss-taking bow to acknowledge his sharp refereeing skills.
Flamini had a shot blocked and Fabregas replace Van Persie, Cesc going right and Freddie moving further forward. Clarke replaced Olofinjana at the same time. We were going through the motions now and other than the odd flick here or there seemed content enough. Freddie had a shot saved before Clichy went on a solo but this was merely a prelude to the move of the day.
Pires at speed down the left hugging the touchline and finding Henry in an inside channel. Tel’s turn was fast and perfect and his pass the perfect set-up for the onrushing Ljungberg to fire home from close range. Pace, power, speed, skill and precision put together simply but with perfect harmony. 2-0 Arsenal and the game well and truly over with eight minutes still on the clock.
Quincy had a short run out to replace Ljungberg, Sol went on a bit of a solo going forward and generally we just controlled the play. There was also a chant of ‘Same old Riley always cheating’ but for what I don’t recall. Tel played a killer ball to Pires, at least it looked it but Rob just left the ball for their keeper. Fabregas found Henry who played the perfect cutback for Quincy who’s shot was saved by Oakes. Three minutes added time allowed a chant of ‘One Arsene Wenger’ which was duly acknowledged.
As Cup-ties go this one was very comfortable.