It was surreal in its easiness. Arsenal equalled Juventus’ record for most goals scored in a Champions League match by destroying Slavia Prague 7-0 at the Emirates Stadium.
Five minutes in, the game was over. Hleb vindicated what I’ve always said about him when it comes to his dribbling skills. Many have laughed when I said he was a more accomplished dribbler than Christiano Ronaldo – well, have a look for yourself, why don’t you? Hleb played keepball while toying with two defenders, before feeding in an onrushing Cesc Fabregas on the left side of the box to wickedly curl in the ball for the opening goal. A very good goal that was a prelude for the deluge to come.
The second goal saw a Fabregas corner cleared off the line by the Slavia defence, but only into the left section of the box, which saw an onrushing Hleb (from the left, Myles. How wrong can you be?) smash in the looseball, taking a deflection from the defender, Hubacek. 2-0 and crusing.
The third was comical at best, a Slavia defender hitting a raking longball back to his own keeper, who could do nothing else than poke it straight at Theo Walcott, who sidefooted the poor chap to shoot at an open goal. The Emirates was waiting for that one, though no one thought his first European goal would be as easy as that. Cries of “Theo Theo Theo!” rang around the stadium right until the half time whistle.
The second half had barely started when Hleb rifled in his first ‘non-own-goal’ goal. Coming in from the left (from the left, Myles. How wrong can you be?), the midfielder, amongst a host of Arsenal players having an absolute stormer, jinked into the box, cut back and forth making a mug of a defender, before shooting straight and wrongfooting the keeper for 4-0. It sparked a 13-minute period of punishment for Slavia, who went on to concede again five minutes later. Walcott made it 5-0 in very Henry-esque fashion, dinking past a defender down the left channel before toe-poking the finish to score his second of the night. A very elegant goal full of poise from the young man, and hopefully it can spark a rush of goals somewhere down the line from here.
The sixth goal was by miles the best goal scored yet this season. And not just by Arsenal, mind you. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man Utd, Liverpool – for all their money, or history, or whatever else – no one, repeat, no one could have scored a goal even close to that technical brilliance that Fabregas was merely spoilt to finish off. A true Wenger-goal; an urgent dribble down the left wing from Hleb saw him dish the ball to a centrally-placed Adebayor, who let the ball go as he dummied the defender. Picking it up once more, he splashed it out to Walcott on the right, who in a single touch saw Fabregas in brilliantly for the midfielder to finish off a simply sparkling move.
The rest of the match was toying with the opposition, with Almunia only having one save, albeit a solid one, to make for the remainder of the match. Gilberto had come on for Flamini, Bendtner on for Adebayor and Rosicky on Hleb, all in the 60th minute. Theo’s chances for a hattrick were spoilt by an excellent close range save from the Slavia keeper, the rebound falling to Rosicky, who smashed his shot onto the crossbar.
On the 88th minute, Emmanuel Eboue (he with no football brain) played in a brilliant backpass which saw Bendtner break through the defence, to dribble in the ball for his first European goal for Arsenal, and the seventh on a very surreal night.
So thats ducks broken for Bendtner and Walcott in the European department, and a game that gives a new lease on life after the collection of 1-0s and 2-0s we’ve grown accustomed to lately. Liverpool, make no mistake, will be a completely different kettle of fish, of course.
Onto other news that came about before the game, it centered greatly around Jens Lehmann’s ‘humiliation’ of being left out of the side since his stupendous mistakes against Fulham and Blackburn (remember them?). I really don’t want to linger too long on his comments, which can be found here, only to say that his career at Arsenal, bar injuries to Almunia and Fabianski, is all but over. The comments made are totally unprofessional, and if this were a Championship Manager game, I’d have fined Jens two weeks wages, cast him into the Nile river and ordered him to harvest crops for the teams steamed vegetables for the next month. Expect him to be sold in January.
Gallas had a somewhat prophetic interview before the game where he talked about Theo Walcott, amongst other things, and there’s a profile piece in the Daily Mail of Bacary Sagna’s adaptation to the English game.
Anyone else feeling a warm fuzzy glow? Expect a piece tomorrow on the prospects of the Anfield clash with Liverpool, as well as whatever transfer crap churns up – I think I’ll rip into everything, transfer-rumour wise tomorrow – I’ve been ignoring it for quite a while, lately. Got to do your service, you know.
Enjoy the afterglow. It can be that good, on occasion.