Panathinaikos 2 Arsenal 2: It was all Greek to me

Last updated : 21 October 2004 By Brian Dawes

Freddie opened the scoring...
The first half was a fairly languid affair with Arsenal doing the bare minimum, often getting caught in midfield through lack of numbers and the Greeks also had a lot more shots than Arsenal, but in the main theirs were limited to long range efforts.

Basinas had the first from range with a shot past the post. In another attack Cole was taken out which allowed a cross to be fired and Campbell did well to block even though he was fairly close to conceding an own goal. Edu was winning good ball but Pires playing in the hole was nowhere near as effective as Dennis. Reyes looked quite good but suffered a series of nasty challenges, which the Russian referee Valentin Ivanov was happy to blow for but offered no yellow cards. So they kick Reyes some more. The game seemed fairly slow to me and one wonders how often we follow the pace of our opponents in Europe rather than setting our own.

All in all we looked to be playing well within ourselves and generally in control without offering much in a way of a serious threat. Were we saving ourselves for the later rounds or for Old Trafford on Sunday? Reyes went down after slipping on what looked to be a problem ankle. He needed treatment even though there was no apparent contact. Some occasional good balls, a large amount of possession and a smattering of decent play but once more it was Basinas who posed a threat with a decent long range shot that was parried by Lehmann, he hadn’t been closed down. Henry had a shot blocked and there was a good move involving Reyes and Ljungberg. When our opener came after seventeen minutes it was the same pair who were involved.

With Reyes just outside the box and a mob of Panathinaikos players back he flicked a short pass with the outside of his foot to Freddie down the middle who gently scooped it over the advancing keeper. 0-1 Arsenal and the stadium dropped decidedly on the decibel meter. Except for the 600 or so Arsenal fans whose rendition ‘Of by far the greatest team’ could be clearly heard. There was no increase in pace and no killer football to follow up our lead and the rest of the half saw not a lot happen from the Arsenal viewpoint. The Greeks however went reasonably close when Gonzalez headed wide from a decent move and cross. Pires was badly chopped by Goumas but the ref was not inclined to flash his cards. There was a nice dive by Kyrgiakos as Arsenal settled into control mode.

... and celebrated in style, but...
Another long-range shot from Basinas that went wide failed to shake us from our complacency. Our holding zone wasn’t holding, but on the positive side Freddie looked sharp. Mitu won a soft free kick against Ash and Munch headed wide; it should have been a warning. Reyes was again heaved down, this time by Vyntra but still no yellow card appeared. Our performance could best be described as hardly full bloodied. Great tackle by Kolo on Konstantinidis as he went down like a sack of spuds. Cesc conceded a free kick and Basinas shot over, although Lehmann had it covered. Half time arrived and I raised myself from my slumbers to pour a beer.

Nothing changed after the break. There was no real service to our main man and Rob looked out of place in the Bergkamp role. Skacel went down easily in our box and it’s always a worry when that happens. Some Greek (so much easier to spell than Panathinaikos) pressure ended with a shot by Gonzalez that required a save from Jens. We were rattled for a short spell and I suppose I should be crediting the Greeks, but we just seemed so much below par. A Reyes lunge caught their centre back, which was nearly exciting. Meanwhile Henry had yet to engage his turbo. Mitu fell over, he was good at that, and a rare decent break from Arsenal ended with Pires not finding room for a cross. Panathinaikos were closing us down well and our players were bottling one or two tackles I felt. ‘Come on Arsenal’ could be heard, but we didn’t. While Reyes and Cole were arguing about the validity of a Panathinaikos throw they took it quickly and Mitu shot just past the post. Henry, captain for the night, had words with Cole, and so he should.

Olisadebe replaced Konstantinou. Lehmann was out of his area to head clear, it went as far as Gonzalez who was wide on their right and he hit it early, first bounce into our net. A sloppy bit of defending and either a lucky or well-taken goal depending on your viewpoint. 1-1 and I’ll go with sloppy. We woke up for a bit but that didn’t stop Skacel skinning Fabregas. Fabregas and Edu were not helped overly much by our wide men tonight. Reyes worked back well occasionally however and Lehmann caught a shot as Panathinaikos looked to be the stronger of the two teams and certainly the ones most likely to. Henry had a cross from the right cut out by their keeper. Freddie won a free kick in good position but it was hit over by Edu. There was a decided lack of fire in our bellies. A Vieira or Parlour type was required but there were none available.

Despite our somewhat naff play we took the lead again when Cole intercepted deep in our half. Our customary quick fire sequence was Cole to Reyes, to Pires who took a big hit laying it back for the full throttle Cole. Ashley hit a slide-rule low cross and Henry steamed in to clip it home. 1-2 and a trademark Arsenal goal. This was a great move that should have tied it all up.

... the game ended in frustration
Mitu was replaced by Epalle and the stadium had gone very quiet again. Panathinaikos seemed to have gone flat but were good enough to win a corner. From it Olisadebe was in for a free header in perfect position and Lehmann in no-mans land. 2-2 as a result of some pathetic set-piece defending of the variety that would have had GG blowing about five gaskets. We raise our game a bit but not enough as Cesc put one in for Freddie to head wide. After this we had one notable flourish when in quick succession Reyes and Pires both had good close range efforts well saved by Chalkias. This, other than picking the ball out of the net twice was all he was really forced to do, and he did it very well.

Arsenal probed for a winner but our one-twos never quite worked and the Greeks were prepared to concede a couple of yellow cards late on to keep us at bay. A draw was the final result and as PSV won their match they now go a point clear at the top of our division. Arsene was not unduly upset by the result, or at least he claimed not to be. I was, by our own high standards we never turned it on. We scored two very good goals but with a lot more application we could and should have taken three points. Our European form regrettably remains indifferent.