Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona
As Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons once said: Oh what a night.
I can’t remember anything like it at the Grove. The best match in the five years at the new ground? Definitely, indubitably, unarguably. It was unforgettable. I shouted myself hoarse and the Epic Bundle Counter went off the scale.
Pre-match, Arsenal had done their bit by placing a flag on each seat, and the sea of colour that met the players as they came out was a great sight. The more superstitious amongst us pointed out that flags were akin to ole-ing [ie, bound to lead to a calamitous Collaps-o-Arsenal], but by the end of the 90 minutes, that had been thoroughly disproved.
Boy, it was noisy too. The place can be as quiet as a churchmouse sometimes, as we all know, but last night there was at times a wall of sound. I’m not sure I sat down all game.
The game had it all, really. Barcelona were sublime at times in the first half, pinging passes with unnerving accuracy, creating space, lofting passes behind Clichy. Without the ball, as expected, they hunted in packs to get it back. With the ball, they hogged it. I wouldn’t say they gave us a lesson, that would be a bit harsh on us, but they showed why they are being spoken of as one of the finest club sides of all time. At times, it was a case of sitting back and admiring. We did have a few chances of our own in the first half – most notably one from van Persie – and the otherwise shackled Walcott set the cat amongst the pigeons once or twice with his pace, but it was Barca who broke the deadlock with a slick move and Dave Villa slotted it home. 0-1 at half-time and it could have been better, could have been worse.
In the second half, we came into our own. Wilshere and Fabregas got much more stuck in in the midfield, Barca started making a few errors, belief started growing. To be honest, the late stages of the game are so seared into my memory that the middle part of the second half is a bit of a blur. I’ll need to go back over it I think…
Anyway, the next thing I can remember The Clich lofted a ball over Barca’s defence, van Persie closed in on the keeper and readied a pass, I looked across in a panic as there was nobody there to tap it in… and van Persie shoots. Right through Valdes’s legs, and it’s 1-1. The place goes mad.
Our steam was up, the noise was pouring down from the terraces and we went for the jugular. Fabregas toed a delicious pass to Nasri, we all bellowed I don’t know what, Nasri cut it back to Arshavin and we all went bananas. Utterly, hilariously bananas.
The best five minutes you can imagine, and once we held on, a sensational result.
Last night was what it’s all about. Raw emotion, toughness, resilience, battling hard and winning against the odds.
Arsenal showed it all in buckets. Wilshere, Szczesny, Koscielny – all rookies at this level – came of age. But the whole team showed what they are about.
I can’t stop thinking about it. Absolutely superb.
I could babble on about it all day but life gets in the way. So on that basis, it’s over and out from me.
Some pics of the night on the Facebook page