Manchester City 1 Arsenal 3: Freddie & Jose find the net at last

Last updated : 05 May 2006 By Brian Dawes
No one's fault but our own I suppose, we shouldn't have made such giant strides in Europe if we wanted an easier fixture list. Interestingly the Scum have managed just 40 competitive games this season whereas our final tally will be stand at 58 I believe, or to put it another way we've played 45% more matches. Many of the fans unable to attend tonight will of course be saving both holiday leave and cash for a bigger game to come. Those fans that were there made themselves well heard throughout.

The team showed yet more changes which included the enforced absence of Abou Diaby thanks of course to the noxious little shit Dan Smith. Cole started at left back and did well, he survived unscathed, showed some touches but lacked that obvious edge of sharpness. Song played in midfield alongside Gilberto and looked a little out of his depth at times, and although I see potential I've yet to be convinced long-term. Sol and Kolo were our centre backs and although Sol has come on he no longer dominates in the air like Senderos and maybe wouldn't go through a brickwall in a do or die situation. That said Sol made some telling tackles and on the only occasion were he was turned his recovery tackle was fabulous. Kolo has had better days and maybe that's down to being knackered. Eboue is the revelation of the season and continues to amaze with his storming runs. His crosses still sometimes lack total control but he is very much the real deal.

Freddie and Hleb were our wide men and both worked hard and effectively. Van Persie had a nearly but not quite game and his frustration was all too apparent. Henry was simply the master, head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch and drawing applause from the home fans when he took a corner. He oozes so much class it's almost obscene, he glides over the pitch like a hovercraft, his turbo charged acceleration is awesome and he scares opponents in a way that would make the Spanish Inquisition jealous. And it's not just that he looks so bloody good in possession is it? His effectiveness as a goal scorer and his skilled unselfishness as a goal provider is totally unsurpassed. Whatever he does at the end of the season you just have to hold your hands up and say it's been an honour to be in the same stadium at the same time as this genius.

The first half was crap. There was little or no control from either team, we lacked creativity but showed endeavour. We scambled clear a free kick without conviction. Robin hit a shot against the bar but was flagged offside. A foot in Gilberto's knee from Riera was a hairy moment because he stayed down. Kolo had a low limp shot. Samaras had a break stopped by Sol and up until the 30th. minute it was all very nondescript. Henry picked it up near the halfway line, started a run, jinked and slowed and darted and hit a peachy reverse angled ball to Freddie who'd made the run and found the space. He controlled, made half a yard of space and drilled a left-footed shot low inside the far post. James was well beaten. 0-1 Arsenal and a great goal to score in his 300th appearance for Arsenal, his first league goal of the season and a great time for Freddie to rediscover his shooting boots.

Sommeil axed Van Persie. Eboue crossed for Henry after a great run. Sol tidied up. Then we screwed up by allowing a soft goal from a corner. Barton put it in, Sinclair was gifted a free header, Sommeil swung a leg from close range and the men in yellow were about as effective as a tailor's dummies. 1-1 thanks to truly awful defending.

Riera chopped Eboue for a yellow card. Gilberto and Hleb won a corner and from it Sol made a run but headed his glancing effort wide. What might have been goal of the season saw Henry take them all on and keep his feet despite the lunges, after a few seconds of genius he picked out Robin who played a return ball which Thierry hit wide. A joy to watch apart from the shot off target of course. The half ended with Sommeil and Van Persie having words. 1-1 at half time and a pleasing score line for any watching Totts.

An instant attack after the break set the tone for the half with Eboue steaming forward and finding Van Persie who saw his early shot with his wrong foot well saved. Sommeil took a dive in our box. Gilberto hit a killer ball to Robin but he stumbled. Henry found Freddie who made space but smashed his shot against the post as any watching Totts changed into brown trousers. A Barton shot won a corner and we were looking iffy from set plays. Vassell was carded for holding Lehmann but ‘Safe Hans' was putting it about a bit himself in between being battered. Song was replaced by Fabregas to immediate effect when he spun and found Eboue who in turn found Van Persie who shot wide. Henry to Van Persie who hit a good shot that James touched for a corner with a great low save. It was one way traffic. Hleb to Henry who tried a scissors kick. Hleb with a decent shot saved. Kolo fired one over.

At the other end a spell for City when a Dunne header saw Jens pull out a great save. Then Richards with a header that Jens tipped over. Reyes and Pires replaced Hleb and Van Persie who was clearly not a happy bunny when he came off.

Reyes with a shot blocked. Pires with a fizzing shot caught by James. Handball by Reyna on the edge of their box left. But from the free kick James saved Henry's shot. Croft replaced Sinclair. Pires to Eboue to Reyes in a very crisp move. A quick free kick by Reyes to Henry, who moved it on for Pires. Rob hit an inch perfect ball inside the fullback for the storming Eboue to reach and then cut back perfectly into the path of Reyes. His shot was drilled low, James got a hand to it but it still crossed the line. 1-2 to Arsenal as every watching Tott groaned. Eboue yet again but this time it was a poor cross.

Reyna shot following a one-two and it was saved by Jens. We were camped on the edge of our penalty area. Riera was replaced by Flood. Fabregas from very deep came away with the ball and found Freddie. He played it to Henry who set one up for Reyes, Jose Antonio picked his spot, the top corner, and fired it home sweetly. A 1-3 lead and another Arsenal player had found his shooting boots in time for the big one on the May 17th. Our tempo had been well and truly upped after the break and with our big battalions on the heavier fire power had paid off.

There were still six minutes to play but although City had a couple of blocked shots and a half decent cross there was no way back for them. We like City because everyone loves Stuart Pearce and the Blue half of Manchester hate that crowd that come up from Surrey or over from Tokyo every week. We also like City because they have proved to be a fairly regular source of six points. So with one game to go the bottom line is that we need the Hammers to get a result while we do the biz against Wigan.

All thoughts now turn to Sunday's wake and just how many of us will be able to cope with our feelings for this massive ordeal. I suspect that dry eyes will not be an option for many, me included. I'm pretty sure that for me it's just a matter of what particular time I'm going to inevitably crack up. I'm going to do my best to treat it as a celebration of all the glorious memories that I hold so dear, and given that I've probably seen over a thousand matches at Highbury that should give me more than enough to ponder upon. Whether it'll work to my intended plan I'll find out on the day.

Sad it will certainly be, but hasn't it been wonderful? Derek Tapscott scored the first goal I saw at Highbury – who do you reckon will score the last? Arsenal versus Wigan could also be unique in that this should be one game where the stands don't empty five minutes before the final whistle.