Arsene mentioned in the post match interview during the 1st leg that we virtually need merely a single goal in Rome to proceed to the quarter-finals. And this is no wonder that Arsenal started the 2nd leg in similar fashion as the 1st leg, with early exchange of passes between Nasri and Van Persie, who in turns release Bendtner on the left. But the ever-vigilant Mexes sniffed out that pass. The first 5 minutes of the game has seen Eboue and Van Persie darting down the flanks on either side trying to carve the 1st real chance of the game.
The hostile reception in Stadio Olympico is no surprise to the visiting teams, and the small sector of visiting gooners are cheering their team on; with Walcott and Fabregas making surprise inclusions to the squad by making the bench, along with Adebayor, the gooners will have every right to be optimistic of our chances.
With Diaby still out injured, Arsenal started both Song and Denilson to marshall the central midfield, and the early in the game tackles are flying in from different quarters of the field. Denilson in particular make decisive tackles to win the ball after waves of fluent passes between Roma players.
Another smart through pass from Nasri releases Van Persie through on goal. But instead of going for goal himself, he slides the ball unselfishly to Bendnter who is waiting on the right side. And Roma keeper is fast enough to intercept that pass, with Arsenal ruing another early chance to take the lead. The central defense pairing of Toure and Gallas remain resolute to keep Roma attacks at bay. Roma’s golden boy, Totti is leading the attack, along with Motta and Perrotta.
In the 12th min, Sagna makes a rare mistake which allows Motta to roam down the byline and send a tasty cross, with Pizarro sending a glaring header wide off the post. It is an early warning to Arsenal quarters that Roma meant business this time round.
In the 23rd minute, Song misjudges a long pass that allows Pizarro to race clear on goal. In a desperate attempt to stop him, Gallas makes a 2 foot lunge from behind in the penalty area and earns a straight red for a professional foul. Totti converts the resulting penalty that sends Almunia the wrong way. 1-0 to Roma and the game is back on for Roma with the aggregate score tied on 1-1. Arsenal desperately needs an away goal but it will be uphill task with 10 men.
With Gallas red-carded, Song is forced to accommodate into the central defense role with Toure. With 1 man down in the middle, Arsenal is finding it hard to contain the Roma attacks. As Nasri and Van Persie are helping out in the midfield, Bendtner seems like an isolate figure up-front. Roma is now keeping the ball possession that makes Arsenal players chasing shadows.
As time slipping away, the aggregate score remains tied at 1-1. With Roma finding it hard to break down a packed midfield and Arsenal failing to regain ball possession, it seems that this match is heading towards extra time. Finally in the 70th min, Arsene makes the 1st substitutions, with Bendtner and Eboue leaving the field to be replaced by Walcott and Adebayor. And immediately Walcott makes his presence known by sprinting down the right flank, following a rare counter attack by Arsenal. The eventual cross misses the on-rushing Adebayour by an inch and a real chance is lost again.
In the 80th min, Arsene has no choice but to unleash his talismatic midfield gem in Fabregas in place of Sagna. As the game wore on, Fabregas, who is clearing lacking in match fitness, fails to exert his influence in the middle. In the 88th min, with Arsenal in an all out attack mode, Totti manages to steal the ball off Denilson as he launches another round of counter attack. With Toure backing off, Totti sends a screamer past Almunia from 20 yards out. What a goal! Roma leads with aggregate score 2:1.
With the clock running down, Arsenal makes the final desperate attempts to score an away goal. However, Roma players are in a determined mood to propel whatever is thrown at them; Final whistle blown, Roma has ousted Arsenal and progress into the Champions League Quarter-finals.
(Roma progresses on 2-1 aggregate)
Arsenal is made to rue the miss chances in the 1st leg to kill the game off and Roma has advanced at their expense.
The above match report is “of course” untrue. Readers will predictably rained scorns and anger at my utterly ‘rubbish’ match report. However, I am trying to make a point across to our fellow gooners that the above scenario “CAN” happen and that we shall not take it easy that we have progressed on that slender 1-0 advantage.
I for one, will not to wish to read similar match reports as our side faces Roma in 2 weeks time. Nevertheless, if you guys can recall last season’s Champions League when we failed to convert the chances and take the lead in the 1st leg against Liverpool at the Emirates, we are made to pay for the rued chances in the 2nd leg at Anfield despite playing much better than them. So the end result, we are ousted by Liverpool from the competition.
Watching the match on Tuesday night, I can’t help but worried that history might repeat itself. Seeing how our club legend, Henry equalized for Barcelona against Lyon in France on the same night, I am just imagining how we could possibly kill off Roma if he is presented with those clear chances instead.
Nonetheless, 2 weeks is an unpredictable time frame; long enough for key players to return, and short enough for more fit players to get injured. Hopefully, no more players get injured and our key players (Eduardo, Fabregas and Walcott) could return to full fitness in time; till then we can present any real chances of landing a trophy.