A scrappy few minutes opened the game but we scored with our first serious attack. Edu from central midfield put the runaway Cole through with a great ball down our left. Ashley’s square, but perfectly accurate cross, was met by Dennis who was delighted to take the opportunity to open the scoring. 0-1 to the Arsenal. But this wasn’t the cue for Wolves to capitulate as they had in their two Highbury slaughters, this time they were up for kicking anything that moved and working hard to win as many free kicks around our box as possible.
There was little quality football from Wolves, but they made up for this in the first half with a lot of endeavour and some very marginal tackles. None more so than Kennedy’s late two-footed lunge at Lauren. He got a yellow but we’ve seen Cole get red for very similar tackles, if Lauren hadn’t been able to avoid the worst of it he would have copped a serious injury. Cue moronic booing from the home fans ‘Same old Arsenal always cheating’ a song sung by losers all over the country who don’t deserve to be treated to the high class football dished out by the classiest team in the Premiership.
Henry had a fine shot well saved by Paul Jones, wasn’t he the singer in the Manfred Mann Band? We might have made it two if Silva and Lauren hadn’t gone for the same chance to shoot. Difficult though the pitch was, we managed to hit the passing mode button but couldn’t maintain it for long periods prior to half time. Wolves harassed us too effectively. Cort larruped Lehmann in the air without once looking for the ball and the Wolves fans booed like the sad people they are. Irwin went just wide with a tasty free kick while Gilberto to chased down a Bergkamp ball at the other end. Arsenal worked it left to right and Lauren’s cross was headed wide by Thierry. I was just noting how Wolves would prefer a game of head tennis to a game of football when a corner was hit very deep and headed back across goal by Craddock, I think, for Ganea, their Romanian international, to knock home, seemingly totally unmarked. 1-1 and I think a Wolves player might have been booked for his excessive celebrations, well let’s face it, it’s a big deal to peg the Arsenal back to 1-1.
Dennis had a power shot that was well saved. Cort had a bobbling shot well saved by Jens as he tipped it around the post. A great saving tackle by Sol as Wolves gave their all before the break. Wolves ended the half with Naylor whacking a free kick into the Jack Harris Stand (at the top of the hill). Wolves had battled well to be level at the break but matching Arsenal for 90 minutes is not easy for anyone.
The groundsman was unimpressed with Jens marking out his area with his heel, but I expect Jens was equally unimpressed by the naff pitch. Henry got into the action early and Cole had a fine cross cut out and held by the keeper. After a foul by Kolo Irwin hit a free kick that landed on the top of the net. Wolves fans thought it was in, so we laughed at them. Edu fired one wide at the other end following a decent Arsenal move, we were beginning to flow, although the play was still a tad stop-start. A tame Henry cross followed a fast break. Our first substitution, much earlier than usual, as an injured Dennis was replaced by a lively Jose.
In no time at all after the substitution Vieira found Pires, who found Henry on one of his well timed runs, once behind the Wolves defence he slipped it under Jones 1-2 Arsenal. We took charge now, Henry showing some class with a flick, turn and volley attempt on target. A long cross in from the right, from Pires I think, saw Vieira pull back a cross he had no real right to control that well, Kolo was still forward to make the most of it with a close range header. 1-3 Arsenal, game over.
Henry slipped through a great ball to Cole who was on the charge and hit his shot just past the far post. Another mega-passing move from Arsenal and the ‘ole’s’ after every pass hopefully helped ‘Jose Antonio’ feel at home. Rae was still at it, but it was like a gnat attacking a charging rhino when he went after Vieira. Pat was in no mood to do anything other than storm around the pitch bossing the game, and he did. This was a captain’s performance, the captain of a team who knows that his example can inspire other great players to perform, and they did!
Miller managed to wack one into row z of the Stan Cullis Stand (the down hill end) and his shot was greeted with chants of ‘Oh Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny Wilkinson’. Arsenal were in total control and it stayed that way.