We do like to make things hard for ourselves, don’t we? And then we make a tough ask look like child’s play. Apart from the two mistakes from the first leg, Porto have been clinically dismantled and dispatched. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not difficult to see why this was a good draw for us.
The first ten minutes or so were exhilarating. Our speed, movement, and precision passing took the visitors by surprise. Some people, who don’t like to be positive about Arsenal, blame the Porto defence for a few of our goals. I think Porto were made to look ordinary by some sublime team work and mesmerizing individual skill. Arsene touched upon this in his press conference.
I think the pace we put on gave Porto a problem tonight. And that maybe made a difference.
The referee’s assistant helped us a bit with the offside call. Rolando did his bit by letting Arshavin win a header. After that it was down to a quality pass from Nasri and an opportunistic finish by Bendtner. Based on our start, this goal was on the cards and even if the linesman had flagged the Russian off-side, we would have scored sooner rather than later.
The way we started, I thought we will wrap this one nice and easy. After all these years I should have known better. The moment we scored, our tempo dropped and there was the familiar sight of the team sitting back and inviting pressure. Porto had a decent spell and earned some Corners but couldn’t really create anything of note.
As the game went towards the half hour mark, Porto lacked quality in the final third while Arsenal seemed unsure. It was as if some of our players felt 1-0 would be enough and we just had to see the game through!
At the other end, Porto weren’t too comfortable when put under pressure. Arshavin received a misplaced pass from their Right Back in a dangerous position. At that time it looked like he will be crowded out. There weren’t many Arsenal players in support. Somehow the little Russian managed to get past three defenders and squared it for the big Dane. He couldn’t have missed even if he tried.
The thing with this goal was that it didn’t make me any more comfortable. A goal for the visitors would still spell trouble for us and we just had to get the third. When the effervescent Nasri bubbled up to the byline and pulled one back, I jumped up in celebration. I guess we all have moments when we can see the goal coming. Apparently, Arshavin had other ideas and I had to endure another half hour of nervous excitement.
Part of me knew Porto just didn’t have enough and even if we did concede we were good enough to score again. The other part was worried someone will make a howler and without Cesc we might crumble. Thankfully, our recent outings have reinvigorated my belief. Still, you don’t want to have a debate going on inside your head while watching such a game. It just kills the joy of football.
I can’t tell you how delighted I was when Nasri scored. The Frenchman probably had the same debate in his head as his celebration was quite something. And what can I say about the goal. Just like Arshavin took on three guys on the left, Nasri did on the right. The finish was emphatic.
Within a couple of minutes the visitors were picking the ball out of their net once again. This time from a brilliant counter attack. Just how the Porto player managed to miss the header and concede possession to Arshavin, I will never know. After that it was the speed, vision and pass from the Russian that created and the sprint, touch and finish by Eboue that sealed a win. For a moment I was worried that the Ivorian was going to take a tumble as the keeper came out but wiser sense prevailed.
He did take a tumble in the last minute and the Ref was kind enough to give Bendtner a chance for his first hat-trick. I am not saying it was a dive, it certainly wasn’t, but I’ve not seen too many of these penalty decisions go in our favour. The young striker deserved his big moment.
Now I can really enjoy the other second round ties and cheer for some upsets.
Almunia: Fairly solid. Didn’t make any serious mistake. I thought our defenders dealt with the crosses better and the keeper automatically looked much improved.
Sagna: Efficient. Whipped in a couple of decent crosses. Missed a great chance to score. I was a bit disappointed by that because he certainly has the technique to do better. It’s probably a mentality issue as he seemed more focused on defending.
Campbell: Had a few shaky moments but was solid inside the box. I love the way he brushes people off the ball without giving away a foul/penalty. I thought we played deeper than usual, probably to ensure that his lack of pace is not exposed.
Vermaelen: Super commitment, terrific blocks, and some nice tackles.
Clichy: Was a little shaky against Hulk but it didn’t cause us too many problems. Delivered a brilliant cross in the second minute. Suddenly, it seems all our players have regained their crossing ability.
Song: Another hard working effort. What I love is that he keeps chasing the ball and never gives up, especially when he makes a mistake.
Nasri: Played well for most parts but went missing at times. I guess that was because the whole team dropped a notch or two. Was helped by Rosicky playing more centrally and closer to him rather than on the wing.
Diaby: Went missing at times. I am not sure if he is fully fit right now as he seems to lack a yard of pace. Could have done better but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on the fitness angle.
Rosicky: Our right wing was underutilized for large parts of the game. Quite a contrast after the Burnley game. Rosicky played closer to Nasri and more in the middle. It was as if both of them were compensating for Cesc in parts. His passing and presence on the ball was amazing, as usual.
Bendtner: Arshavin was joking that the Dane was saving his goals for the Porto game, or was he!? Firstly, he got into good positions and then he took his chances. You can’t ask for more, except the next step, which is consistency.
Arshavin: Looks like he is fresh after the break and hungry as ever. Was toying with the Porto Right Back. Good to see he is gelling well with Nasri, Rosicky, Bendtner and even Eboue. Earlier I used to sense he was only comfortable with Cesc and Van Persie.
Subs: Eboue was brilliant. Walcott wanted to continue his good form and had a couple of good moments. Denilson was solid and did his job.