Big result for the team last night. While we didn’t quite reign in Spain, the lads did what was needed to get a positive result. I suppose the less said about the first half the better, we didn’t perform well at all. Adebayor was fairly woeful. Walcott was probably our best outfield player. We picked up three yellow cards for Song, Cesc and Adebayor and lost Almunia and Gallas to injury.
In the second half we were much better and put them under more pressure. The goal came after we had a chance when, with men forward, Nasri played the ball out left to Walcott but he played it a little too far wide for Theo and as a result Theo just got off a scuffed shot. From the resulting kick out, the ball eventually came to Fabregas, he played the ball into Adebayor who controlled it on his chest with his back to goal and bicycle-kicked it into the left corner. A great finish and one you would never have expected given his overall performance up until that moment in the game.
There were one or two dangerous moments for us when the ball went across the face of the goal, but luckily nobody got on the end of it and we were able to clear. There isn’t too much point in writing an in-depth match report, because there are heaps of those spread across just about any sports news site that you can think of. Independent. Guardian. BBC. Goonerholic also talks about it here.
Getting the away goal was absolutely vital and sets us up well for the return leg at the Emirates. The 1-1 tips the balance slightly in our favour and we will need to make the most of home advantage to wrap things up. Villarreal’s away form isn’t great and we will need to capitalise on that, but it’s a decent start so far and we now have the tricky away tie out of the way. It’s nice to get a positive result when the performance as a whole wasn’t all that great.
In the evening’s other game, ManUre drew 2-2 at home with Porto. So, I think that we will definitely be more happy with our result than ManUre will with theirs.
It appears that we have now lost Gallas for all, or most, of the remainder of the season with a medial ligament injury which is a shame as he was actually playing quite well since he was stripped of his captaincy. however, i think that Djourou will be an able deputy and will give us a bit more security on high balls into the box. Nevertheless, Gallas will be missed. Also out for a few weeks is Manuel Almunia and this will give Fabianski the chance he has been craving for to prove that he is worthy of a place in the starting eleven. It will be interesting to get a look at him over a number of games but losing two defensive players in one game is bad for us as we aren’t exactly blessed with a great deal of quality cover in that area. Let’s hope that Almunia can bounce back quickly from his ankle injury and that Fabianski does well while deputising.
The manager was understandably delighted after our second half comeback and it’s a testament to the character of the team that they got the goal they so desperately needed/wanted after trailing 1-0 for almost an hour away from home. He had this to say about the character of the squad:
“This team has shown the whole season they are mentally very strong and when they have back to the wall, these young players always find an answer which is very interesting for a young team. I believe we have created momentum. We are a very young team, but are able to focus. We have shown with the consistency we have in the Premier League that we are able to concentrate every three days, and at that age, that is a big quality.”
While taking a corner, Cesc had missiles of various description hurled at him and it will be interesting to see what, if any, action UEFA takes over the incident. No doubt, because it involved an English club, Platini will brush it under the carpet and it will be made ‘go away’.
For sure, the extreme tiredness of getting up at the crack of dawn (03:45) to watch the game has been made up for by the pleasure of a comeback to get a good result. We can spend today enjoying the result, if not the overall performance, and tomorrow we can start thinking about the next game, away to Wigan this Saturday at 11pm. It’s live on J-Sports 1.
That’s all for now, it’s almost time to finish work. I need to go home and collapse on my sofa.