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A Game Apart


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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Nasri does a Maradona, Bendtner does the trick, Arsenal sink Porto in a storm. High-fives all round for Gooners

SO what do you want to hear about? The Samir Nasri goal that makes Diego Maradona's 1986 effort look timid? The Emmanuel Eboue dream finish which made it 4-0 and left every Arsenal fan dreaming? Or Nicklas Bendtner's first ever professional hat-trick which made it 5-0?
Oh Porto, this wasn't a good night to come across an Arsenal side seeking their first European win from a first leg deficit for 31 years. In the end it wasn't just a first Champions League comeback, it was an apocalypse wow.
The Portuguese visitors, who relied on two bizarre Arsenal blunders to win 2-1 at the Stadeo da Dragao, were completely outplayed for the first half-hour.
Andrei Arshavin's little legs left them bemused, Alex Song didn't miss a tackle or a pass, Tomas Vermaelen and Sol Campbell were imperious at the back.
And of course there was Nicklas Bendtner, after five glaring misses against Burnley on Saturday, to stick away the first two goals and get Arsenal to half-time on a wonderful high. Bendtner had the goalkeeper stretching as he sought a hat-trick, Arshavin missed a glorious chance of his own. Any Porto in a storm? And all this without the spine of the team: William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie were up with the 60,000 in the stands.
Ruud Gullit said at half-time he was worried Arsene Wenger's wonderboys couldn't sustain the pace. To an extent he was right. But just when Gooners were beginning to worry, Nasri - having saved a Porto header off the line at one end - produced the Mardona goal. He jinked his way through four defenders - clean around the outside of one of them - and stuck the ball in off the far post from the narrowest of angles.
The roars had barely died down when, 150 seconds later, Gael Clichy''s headed clearance reached Arshavin, who ran 50 yards before releasing the ever-popular sub Eboue. One of 13 children from the Ivory Coast, popular in the dressing-room and increasingly talismanic outside it, Eboue took a touch past the keeper and stuck it away with his left foot. Game over. What a night.
By the time sub Theo Walcott, the subject of my delirious preview, emerged, it was all over. Andy Gray was reduced to claiming the Portuguese League is rubbish, neatly overlooking Porto's Champions League success with Jose Mourinho in 2003. As he came off, Nasri took a standing ovation. And when Eboue was felled for the last-minute penalty (wish we had this ref every week) up stepped Nicklas Bendtner for his first-ever hat-trick. Bosh!
Bendtner said afterwards: "Today I put it right. Every time I play a game I put it behind me. The Burnley game was forgotten. It was good for me to score early.
"I haven't seen Andrey win a header before, so it was good for my first ball. I didn't know you get to keep the ball for a hat-trick!
"When we got the penalty, all the guys just wished me luck."
Wenger said: "Bendtner shows how quickly football can change but I hope he doesn't get too confident! I hope it gives him the desire to work even harder.
"Maybe it's good for us to play an English team in the quarter-final. We haven't done well against Chelsea and Manchester United this season, I have a funny feeling it would be a good opportunity we can do it against them."
Graeme Souness chose to inform us that the tackling was poor for Nasri's wondergoal, but he wouldn't last five minutes in the current card-happy climate.
It was a goal to wonder at, a goal which will be watched for years to come. Shut it Souey. Forget it Gray. For one night only, Arsenal are the best team on the planet. End of.

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Anonymous Marky T said...

Good game to watch, but you've beaten an average Porto side, not Barcelona. Play like that against a better team and you'll get undone.
Nice to see Bendtner have a good game, I've always rated him as a player.

9 March 2010 23:04  
Anonymous Marky T said...

Good performance, but don't forget this was Porto, not Barcelona. If you play that loose against a team of higher calibre, you'll get beaten.
Nasri's goal was sublime skill, he finally showed why he was compared to Zizou when he was at Marseille.
Glad for Bendtner to get a hattrick, I've always been a fan, and I think he's unfairly judged especially at his young age. To have 50 goals by 21 is pretty good going.

9 March 2010 23:40  
Blogger Neal Collins said...

What annoyed me was how quickly Souness, Gray and Gullit started saying Porto were rubbish. They're certainly better than Burnley! If Arsenal play as they did for long periods last night against any side in Europe they'll have them. And remember, this was without Van Persie, Fabregas and Gallas. See The Sun back page this morning: An apology to Bendtner. Brilliant.

10 March 2010 08:52  
Blogger Neal Collins said...

And don't think I don't recognise your genius in reading a game. Perhaps losing Gallas at centre-half was the key to last night's astonishing success!

10 March 2010 08:53  

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