Ray led his troops to a victory that will cause brown trousers all over Europe, we came, we played, we battled, we stood firm at the back and then we cut them to ribbons with some counter attacking football that was out of this world.
For about ten minutes Inter looked the part. They had some chances through rather generous free kicks around the edge of our box but couldn’t capitalise as Vieri amongst others blasted them all over the place. Materazzi hit one of them fairly close but no cigar. A dangerous place to concede free kicks against Italians but we survived and began to work our way into the match. This was in no small part due to Edu and Parlour running the midfield with a couple of great performances. Ray has grown in stature enormously over the past year and can hold his own against all the top names in Europe. Edu can’t have done his Brazilian chances much harm either.
We slowly started to boss the match but Cole had to block a shot from Vieri and Henry started slowly. Slow being a relative term. The Gooners in the crowd could be heard loud and clear in England on what was a very wet night for them. Van Der Meyde hit a decent cross that Vieri headed over and Kanu who held the ball up well hit a left footed effort not too far wide. Martins almost got through but tried to pass when he could have taken it on. Arsenal started to play with our passing game hitting a groove and with one fine move ending with a weak Pires' shot.
25 minutes gone and Cole to Pires to Henry, Cole continued his run into the box and picked up Henry’s pass that he laid back. Thierry picked his spot, which was low to the keepers left, and it was 0-1 Arsenal. A beautifully crafted goal and we well deserved the lead. But had we scored too early? Martins kept on diving but Arsenal kept up the pressure and worked the ball well. Henry was full of confidence now and a lovely flick for Freddie was just too far for him to reach.
Just as we seemed to be dominating things Edu put Ray in trouble with a poor pass. The ball broke for Vieri in a left channel, Sol closed but the shot deflected off him, it looped over Lehmann and went in off the underside of the bar. 1-1 with 32 minutes gone. What a bummer. 30 dived again but no action was taken. Jens caught a deep cross. Ray hit a good cross for Rob but he couldn’t control his volley. There are now three men up against Henry instead of the more usual two, they were scared shitless of him, and so they should be.
Van Der Meyde dived over Parlour to win yet another free kick, Jens saved well from Materazzi’s bent shot which was on target. With only two men to beat Henry got in a decent cross. There was some good pass and move stuff being played by Arsenal before the break and we deserved better than the scoreline. One big moved ended with Lamouchi fouling Freddie. Henry blasted it over from about 35 yards. Arsenal were still giving it a go when the half time whistle went just before the 45 minutes were up.
Arsenal changed into short sleeve shirts for the second half, maybe it was the only fresh kit they had. No subs after the break and Edu played a unique one-two off the ref. Good pressure as the Italians lost it on our left. Henry was on the ball, a good run and he hits the ball near post with Freddie and Kanu in the box, Freddie took it with his right foot and shot with his left, squeezing it past Toldo at his near post. 1-2 Arsenal and it was deserved. This was an immense performance and all we had to do now was hang on for another 42 minutes. I don’t think I can recall a longer or more crucial 42 minutes ever.
We caught the Italians offside with ease and they were beginning to get rattled. Almeyda on for Lamouchi with 55 minutes played. Kanu got around the back of their defence but couldn’t pick out a man to find with his pass. Cannavaro off Pasquelle(?) on. They seemed to go from three at the back to four at the back, but maybe I have that wrong. Toldo was out well to beat Henry to a long ball from Ljungberg. Cygan chopped Martins on the edge of our box in exchange for a yellow card, it looked a good trade to me. Especially when Van Der Meyde hit it just over the bar.
Inter were now throwing men forward, like we did at Highbury, and we all know what happened there. I was really trying not to look at the clock every ten seconds but I couldn’t resist. It was tense. 63 minutes gone and Henry won only our second corner of the match. Kolo’s header from the corner bounced off Freddie. A pissed off Vieri resorted to blatant play acting. A great Arsenal break, was a taster of things to come, it had Freddie close to getting onto a Henry cross from his favourite position.
Ash in hard, Kolo in hard and Vieri miles offside. A bad tackle on Freddie should have seen Materazzi booked, but he wasn’t. Henry shot from the free kick, quelle surprise! Cruz on for Van der Meyde as the Italians got as near as they ever get to throwing in the kitchen sink. An anxious Arsene could be seen in the dugout which was almost below pitch level. Don't worry Arsene I said, well no actually that’s a lie I was as anxious as he was. Cruz to the far post for Vieri who couldn’t get enough on it to trouble Lehmann.
Martins dived again, Kanu did well to play keep ball at the other end. Jens out to catch well, the first in a series of well caught high balls as the Italians got desperate. Gilberto on for Kanu which left us with no one as an out ball until Freddie finally moved into the hole behind our front man. But as our front man is usually on the left wing that hardly makes sense, still I hope you get the gist. Big dive by Cruz and a corner was given against Sol. Jens scrambled clear or maybe someone got a boot on it, who cares the ball was away. Jens caught another ball in, the next deep cross went out but the ball boys were now rushing the ball back almost before it’s out of play. Jens took his time with the goal kick to compensate.
A Henry solo down the left, where else, almost squeezes into the net but Toldo saved for a corner. Edu took it and Freddie missed a half chance. The half had lasted for at least forever and a day but there was still 13 long minutes to go. Arsenal’s performance was immense though, this was us at our dogged best with everyone working their rocks off. Jens out of his box to head clear, very good judgement. Freddie to Henry to Edu to Cole to Freddie to Edu to Freddie to Gilberto to Rob to Gilberto to Kolo to Pires to Kolo to Freddie to Freddie who was fouled. Brilliant control, and a great spell of football. We were still holding the line well at the back, largely untroubled.
Freddie chased a long through ball but looked pretty knackered. Cruz dived for another free kick with 8 minutes to go. Was I the only one praying for them to hold out, I doubt it? A fantastic saving tackle from Ash as Jens steamed out and kneed Ashley in the back of the head. Ash was off injured for the corner Materazzi slung himself to the ground in a manner that would shame even that cheating tosser Van Diver, ok well maybe not.
Two minutes to go and Aliadiere came on for the brilliant Henry, a minute later he beat his man down the right, took it to the line and picked out Pires inside. Pires skipped a tackle and slotted home. We’d stuffed Inter in the Milan 1-5, this, I think, was our biggest Champions League result ever.
Arsenal looked almost satisfied at the end of the game, and so he should. Tonight Arsenal were the dogs proverbials.
I’m delighted that John who drives me all around England to see the Arsenal was out there to enjoy such a great performance by Arsenal. All our fabulous away followers must have been in absolute ecstasy, and so they should.