It’s been almost four years in coming, and by ‘eck it felt good.
And we’re back on top after a resilient performance against a side that, like us, simply never gives up. In the cold light of day (and with no beer in my belly), I am beginning to appreciate what a performance it was.
There were plots and sub-plots going on across the pitch throughout the game. Obviously, there was the return of Cole, who was booed mercilessly. That’s what you get for almost crashing your car when you are offered “only 55k” a week.
There was an unpleasant follow-through tackle on Fabregas by Terry; Eboué repaid the compliment. Then in the second half, J. Cole re-repaid that compliment. Like a game of draughts, the pieces were being removed.
So the first half was tight, edged spectacularly late on by Gallas, who profited from a piece of comedy goalkeeping from their otherwise reliable keeper. At times in the second half, when the Russians kept hold of the ball and pushed hard, and relentlessly, for the equaliser, I didn’t think it would be enough, but we stood firm in the end, and won the game, deservedly so.
Not that we didn’t have the chances to make the game safe: when our guests were pressing hard, we had some glorious counter-attacking opportunities. Van Persie had the ball in the net, only for Rosicky to have been adjudged off-side in the build-up (he probably was, just). Adebayor too had the bell nestling in the goal – the ref ruling his effort out for some non-existent pushing. Awful decision. On another occasion Fabregas bounced one straight at Cheque when set up by Hleb, then there was the double save, when both van Persie and Fabregas shot straight at the keeper when they should have done better).
Overall, a well-deserved three points against an incredibly determined opponent. I don’t admire much about the expensively assembled Russians, but you can’t but be impressed by the way they keep coming at you, and rarely lose the ball while doing so. It was a big test for us. We passed it with flying colours.
There were great performances across the park – Almunia was terrific and the back four solid. The returning Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb made a load of difference, even if Fab and Hleb tired as the game went on (not so Nigel Flamini, who seemed to get more energy as the game went on. The man is not made of the same stuff as other men).
Adebayor was tireless, van Persie dangerous – it was a footballistically excellent team performance (Wenger’s word in his programme notes, not mine. The man is so great he can make words up and get away with it).
What more can I say? Excellent seems to sum it all up really.