Chelsea kicked off but Arsenal found the better early rhythm. Vieira was the first player floored and he was continuously hacked down all night, one time too many for Chelski but more of that later. The game hotted up instantly and settled into an end to end Cup tie played at a blistering pace. How players control the ball at such speed is beyond me, this was high-class stuff. Dennis had our first real shot, which was saved low after build up play from Henry and Lauren. Dennis was then called offside and it looked as iffy as those flagged in Milan last night. We moved the ball about well, the play was fluid and the interchanging got progressively better.
Cole broke and found Pires who got a shot on target that was saved. I’d like to have seen Ambrosio put under more pressure at corners, similar to the manner in which the blues attempted to batter Lehmann. Bridge won a free kick from a fast raid but the Mutant hit it straight at Jens. Henry bemused Parker who fouled him. From the free kick Sol headed just wide. Sol then stopped Gallas on a run but most things Chelski were going via Duff. Makelele’s job was to stay tight and kick Pat, which he did continuously. Cole reached for a cross that he over hit, but at the speed he was travelling I’m amazed he got any direction on it at all.
Kolo won a battle with Gudjohnsen and Arsenal bossed the first half-hour. Jens cut one out before the Mutant fouled Pat, it was his turn on the rota. Parker had a sort of shot that came to nothing before Pat went on a great run. The pace was incredible and everyone worked. Henry worked back hard to clear. Chelsea seemed to play deep, although maybe we just pressed them back, we certainly played more football, but their direct attacks were also a threat. Chelsea got back into the match for the last third of the half although neither side controlled things for too long at any point in the proceedings.
Terry cut out a ball well as Pires tried to find Henry, who had one of his quieter matches. The Mutant hacked Freddie. Dennis uncharacteristically gave it away but the Mutant’s cross was easy for Jens. Ambrosio managed to find Jens with one of his clearances. Edu set up Dennis who hit one on the left with his left that their keeper couldn’t hold. Negative Gooner chanting included ‘You can stick your Russian money up your arse’ and ‘You ain’t got no silverware’ nothing too original tonight, due mainly to the tension, which had my stomach knotted throughout. Cole had to stop Mutu as Lauren was stranded upfield. Both teams played their best stuff down their respective left wings. Makelele was still kicking Pat. Parker had a cross that Mutu headed well off target. Desailly hacked down Freddie but is was just outside of Henry’s perceived range. Parker chopped Edu well after the ball had gone and Pires exchanged a few niceties with ‘Lampard the lump’ as they left the field at half time. Arsenal’s half on quality football, but that doesn’t necessarily win matches. We’d all stood throughout a tense first half so a sit down was welcomed.
Chelsea had a little storm, which we weathered well enough and we came back at them with a cross from Freddie that was cleared before Edu fired one well over on the run. Chelski were seemingly well offside but won a corner. Jens made up for his error, not 100% down to him alone, with a fine double save. Arsenal clawed their way back and started building things again. More than that we pressed forwards and equalised when Cole hit a cross to the near post that Pires leaped well for and headed home, neatly placed close to the post. 1-1 followed by a chorus of ‘You’ll never beat the Arsenal’.
Henry engaged his turbo and won us a corner. The keeper caught Henry’s inswinger but Arsenal took command once more. Pat was chopped and Chelski cleared off the line from Henry’s free kick. Pires tripped Parker, and Parker crossed for Lehmann to take with ease. Edu looked to hit a through ball, to Henry I think, but Makelele handled and got booked. It was central and within range but Henry fired it well over. Edu was commanding, Ash was bombing forward, Freddie was in and out, Rob was up for it and our back pairing were in control.
Lauren took out Duff. Pat took on three who all fouled him before he won the free kick. It was still a tad tasty out there. Gilberto lost it but Kolo stopped Gudjohnsen on a threatening run. Arsenal won a free kick and Pat spurted forward unmarked, the kick was taken quickly as for once Pat had lost his shadow, and he looked to be away on goal when Desailly took him out without ceremony. Yellow card, his second, so we waved him goodbye. He actually came back on, but only to hand over his captain’s armband. Reyes had a run and a low shot as Arsenal countered. Chelsea now dropped back looking to hold on with their ten men.
Pat, Jose and Rob combined for Henry to have a shot, but it wasn’t his night. Melchiot on for Gudjohnsen to shore up their back four. Chelsea were on the defensive now but I reckon our earlier barnstorming had tired us. Three minutes added time, couldn’t really see what for, but time enough for Crespo to have a weak shot from a decent Bridge cross. Bridge then had a crap cross before Reyes and Henry gave the blues defenders’ their last panic of the evening. This had been a terrific game of football between two teams full of class acts. We may have edged the play but it’s goals that count. Will ours be enough?