Chants of 'Vieira' could be heard from the travelling Gooners as the game commenced. We started well with three good attacks before Valencia had done a thing. Henry had a shot saved. An early dive by the Spaniards and some fussy refereeing preceded a Pires shot that went wide as we heard that it was Roma 0-1 Ajax. Thierry won a corner as our forward play looked sharp which is more than could be said for Clive 'I'm up Fergusmoan's Arse' Tyldersley in the commentary box. Is he actually paid by Manure or ITV I wonder? Henry shot low but it was an easy save. A Pires cross from the right was too close to the keeper and Valencia broke fast on the counter to win a corner.
Carew looked for a penalty and it was helter-skelter in midfield with a nil-nil looking the most unlikely score line. A free kick against Rob was hit into our wall by Vincente one of Valencia's two front men. A great controlled move by Arsenal broke down due to Freddie not quite being his old slick self just yet. Taylor was forced into a hurried clearance from a back pass but he was cool enough. Vieira to Henry - almost as 'Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal' could be heard. Aimar dived again before Sol sorted it out at the back. Freddie was not giving Toure the cover he so obviously needed. Carew into the back of Campbell. A Henry chip to Pires was just too far and Cygan cleared at the other end. Valencia attack down their left and won a corner but Arsenal played it out in style. Henry given offside when he clearly wasn't but the prat commentator hasn't a clue. Great run by Rob down the left ended with Henry missing out. Wiltord, Henry and Ljungberg combined well as Arsenal pressed and were looking the biz.
Wiltord got the ball past Canizares but a defender behind him cleared. From the corner Silva's header hit a defender on the line and ricocheted off the bar and away. Our closest chance yet as 'Good old Arsenal' could be heard in the background. A Lauren foul but their free kick went straight out. We were working hard as were our fans 'Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal' . But against the run of play Aimar split our defence with through ball that saw Carew hit it home low for a one nil lead. Cygan was out of position and there was no chance for Taylor. 1-0 Valencia. Carboni hit Wiltord with a two-footed tackle from behind and earned a yellow, we've seen red cards for less.
We were third in the league now and needed a goal but Valencia were spurred on by their goal and started to play convincingly and their crowd came also alive. Some play-acting and disruptions to the match followed and although it became more heated it didn't boil over. Tyldersley showed just what a wanker he was when a clean tackle by Vieira was described as a foul by Toure. A yellow card for Pat resulted, quite why I have no idea. A fine run from number 33 as both Toure and Cygan rashly dived in. Henry lost out after some fine play down our left and Vincente was rolling around on the floor looking for an Oscar, which he probably deserved. Halftime and I was forced to refill my empty glass again in order to miss the halftime bullshit from the TV pundits. Tyldesley is bad enough but those other tossers do my brain in.
The stadium was really noisy now and Valencia controlled the game for the most part. Tyldersley was still talking garbage. Lauren has learnt how to cover our centre backs and did so. Carboni went on a run as Valencia stepped it up. Taylor saved from a corner. Great play by Lauren gave Pires a chance and Henry followed up only to pull his shot wide. Valencia caught offside and then Campbell stopped a decent Aimar run. Angulo on for Sanchez. Henry tackled as he took too much time with a half chance. A Wiltord effort was saved, Freddie followed up and laid out Canizares in a 50/50 challenge - a total accident and he was perfectly entitled to go for it. The ball was kicked out of play, the keeper received treatment before being subbed by Palop and Arsenal gave them the ball back.
Freddie had his run cut short with a block but the free kick, which was just outside their area and central, was fired wide by Henry. A yellow was flashed for a Valencia player kicking the ball away but I've seen worse time wasting. Jeffers on for Wiltord, Freddie went right and Pires left. Clever stuff by Henry got Francis away but he was called offside when he was quite clearly level. Albelda was caught by a Vieira tackle and the divot Tyldersley pronounced that it was Toure. Jeffers was quite clearly tripped in their box but unfortunately it was Freddie who tripped him as the ball ran away for a goal kick. It was all attack, counter attack, counter and back up the other end again but we didn't look like we quite had a crucial goal in us despite our huffing and puffing and our fair share of decent build up play.
Taylor who came out of this with credit dived well at Carew's feet. Aimar fired one wide. Kanu was on for Toure with four minutes to play and Jeffers still hadn't had a sniff. Kanu showed fine skill in combining with Henry but they had a seriously packed box. Carew was subbed by Marchena a defender for a front man. Five minutes of added time saw Pires trail his leg in their box, he went down and earned a yellow card for his trouble. Final whistle and it was 1-1 in Roma so we were out of the Champions League for another season.
We didn't have a lot of luck in the competition this season but then again neither did we make enough of our own. Not clinching matches when on top was our downfall and we could and should have wrapped it up with our home games in this second group phase. Had Upson chosen not to join Birmingham's relegation battle he might have had the choice of being centre back or left back tonight. Had Arsene shelled out for a decent central defender at the start of the season we might still have been in with a shout. But what ifs are cheap shots and easy to call whereas running a top team on a limited budget isn't. I'm not about to start slagging anyone off at this stage of the season because whoever is in the team deserves 100% of our total support and they'll get mine.
We're out of Europe and I'm pissed off enough to say ****, ****, ******** and **** but as one door closes another one opens and it's time now, as they say in all the best clichés, to concentrate on the League.