Standard Liege (2) – (3) Arsenal
Bendtner (45′), Vermaelen (77′), Eduardo (81′)
Maurice Dufrasne Stadium, Belgium
Well how the hell do you analyse that?
Arsenal were simply diabolical in the first 5 minutes.
Vito Mannone was making only his second first team appearance in the Arsenal side tonight and he was literally left exposed as Arsenal decided to neglect all defensive responsibility and self destruct.
He must have been wondering where was the defence?
After only 2 minutes, a Standard Liege corner was headed away for Eduardo to try an audacious backheel into the path of Fabregas. It didn’t come off, and the ball landed at the feet of central defender Mangala to smash the ball into the bottom corner.
Not the best start.
Then only minutes later, Gallas hacked down Jovanovic just inside the area and the referee awarded a penalty. On first glance, I thought it was a blatant dive but replays showed Gallas made clear contact and that the referee had in fact made a good decision. Jovanovic picked himself up and coolly dispatched the spot kick.
So after 5 minutes Arsenal were 2-0 down. You had to watch it to believe what happened, and Arsene Wenger must have been absolutely seething.
Ironically before the game, I was wondering if Arsenal were capable of keeping a clean sheet. I was worried if we’d concede silly goals like we have recently and my fears were realised in dramatic fashion.
But in a strange way, the 2 goal deficit actually worked in our favour.
Champions League new boys Liege couldn’t believe their luck, and understandably sat back and were intent on defending their lead. And that helped us.
From then on Arsenal bossed the game.
It was literally attack versus defence and you have to give the Belgians credit they defended well for the most part, and could be considered unlucky on all 3 goals.
The first Arsenal goal came from great work from Diaby, who showed great strength to beat several players before feeding Bendtner with a top quality goal before the Dane finished well. Up to that point, Standard Liege had defended well and I couldn’t remember their goalkeeper
Borat Bolat making a notable save.
Talk about getting out of jail.
So that goal set-up the second half perfectly. Arsenal were chasing and Liege were going to be even more content on sitting back and protecting their lead. There was a lot of huffing and puffing but we couldn’t get the final ball right. We had a lot of set-pieces but Fabregas couldn’t find his range and all of his deliveries were over hit. The crosses (as usual) from Clichy, Eboue (and Sagna when he came on) were very poor. I don’t know why they bother crossing it to be honest.
But the pressure paid off and Liege were fouling more and our equalising goal came from a Fabregas freekick which was for once on the money.
The ball was floated in and found Song on the back post who scrambled the ball into the path of Vermaelen who capped off a fine performance with a goal from 2 yards. Replays showed that Song was not offside (as Eduardo made no contact) but he did seem to handball it. Standard Liege were livid with the linesman but I’ll take it!
From then on Arsenal’s tails were up and only 5 minutes later they scored another.
A corner from Fabregas wasn’t dealt with and Eduardo coolly poked the ball into the net inside the 6 yard area with his knee. An unorthodox finish but classy and deliberate all the same.
So a hugely entertaining game where Arsenal left with all 3 points.
I don’t think I can really say more than that…
Vito Mannone: 7/10
Can’t fault him for any of our goals and therefore can’t fault his overall performance. He was let down and completely exposed by his more experienced team mates but wasn’t really troubled after the quite frankly crazy first five minutes.
Emmanuel Eboue: 7/10
Full of running and always there to support the attack but was shaky when defending.
William Gallas: 6/10
Looked nervous in the first half and the unnecessary hack to concede the penalty was silly at best. Settled as the game went on but still looked shaky at times.
Thomas Vermaelen: 9/10
Man of the Match for me. By far the best defender tonight and a solid performance overall. Saved Arsenal’s bacon a few times from mistakes from Clichy and Gallas and didn’t put a foot wrong. Scored that vital second goal and minutes later almost scored another with a beautifully executed backheel.
Gael Clichy: 7/10
Full of running but was caught out a few times on the break. Guilty of letting a few crosses into the box when he was in control of situations but on the flip side made a couple of vital last minute interceptions in the second half which could have put the game beyond Arsenal.
Alex Song: 7/10
Had a mixed evening tonight. Seemed to suffer from the side’s collective ‘shell shock’ in the first few minutes but still managed to have a relatively solid performance. Was exposed heavily but fellow midfielders such as Diaby which didn’t help.
Abou Diaby: 6/10
Apart from the run and pass for Bendtner’s goal very poor. You know he has the ability but his decision-making at times is woeful. Will hold onto the ball and lose it instead of making a simple pass and never really makes an effort to get back and help out his defence.
Cesc Fabregas (Captain): 7/10
Didn’t really make the impact he usually can and his delivery on set-pieces (apart for the ones for the two goals ironically) were all over hit. Kept the team flowing though which was important and never shirked responsibility.
Tomas Rosicky: 8/10
Very impressive considering it’s his first start this season. Followed on from his influential performance on Saturday and was the one who was making things happen. Played in Bendtner in the second half with a stunning 50-yard ball which really should have been our equaliser. Encouraging signs for Arsenal if he can stay fit.
Nicklas Bendtner: 8/10
Found it tough tonight against a Standard Liege side that defending deep but was enthusiastic and always willing to run for the side. Took his goal superbly and that gave Arsenal a platform to build on in the second half.
Things didn’t really come off for him tonight but was there to bury the chance when it came his way. That was the first real opportunity he had throughout the entire game and he finished it like we know he can.
Aaron Ramsey: 8/10 (Replaced Rosicky 70′)
Looked bright and unlike his Arsenal team mates wasn’t afraid to shoot. Disposed a Standard Liege defender to create a shooting opportunity and did the same again later, but his pass to Bendtner in the middle was over hit. Solid shift though.
Bacary Sagna: 7/10 (Replaced Eboue 80′)
Solid enough for a 10 minute stint.
Jack Wilshire: 6/10 (Replaced Eduardo 83′)
Not enough time to make an impression.