Well Arsenal have done it again and contributed to one of the best matches this season with their unique attacking style which at times tonight was simply a pleasure to watch.
And it was Freddie’s Forget Me Not on Valentine’s Day that proved the difference in a game that Arsenal really should have won before the first 90 minutes were up.Â
But they put us supporters it yet again with two goals in extra time to put the tie beyond doubt.
It was a match where Arsenal pretty much dominated from start to finish and if it was not for some poor finishing then the game would have been over before extra time.
The first half was fantastic to watch as Denilson, Adebayor, Hleb, Rosicky et al played some of the best football I’ve seen this campaign. The passing and movement from the entire team was just brilliant and Arsenal created several chances to open the scoring.
And on 14 minutes Hleb waltz past 3 players on the right touchline and nutmegged a Bolton player to play in Denilson. Then the little Brazilian pulled off a trick of his own to feed the ball into Adebayor who gave the ball to Rosicky on the edge of the area. The Czech then tried to setup up Baptista for a shot but the ball deflected off Campo and Adebayor took full advantage as ran through and smashed a left foot shot past the keeper.
And from then on Arsenal were playing excellent football, but they couldn’t get that important second goal that would have killed the game.
In the second half, Gilberto smashed his penalty over the bar and later on Adebayor missed an open goal as his effort hit the post.
And after all the great play and chances we had Bolton won a corner in the 92nd minute and the melee in the box resulted in Meite equalising to send the game into extra time.
But Arsenal showed that grit and determination that has seen them comeback from setbacks before and the lads still played with the same adventure and freedom as the put even more pressure on the Bolton defence.
The decisive moment came on 109 minutes when Arsenal carved out another fantastic goal from virtually nothing. The fresh Aliadiere ran 50 yards taking on 5 players before playing a smart through ball into the path of the spriting Freddie who controlled the ball and hit the ball so early right into the bottom corner.
What a fantastic finish!
Freddie showed us all that even with all the kids in the squad we shouldn’t forget about him and that typical clinical Freddie finish couldn’t have come at a better time.
The match that had everything had even more to come as Anelka fouled Adebayor in the Bolton area to concede a penalty – only for Baptista to hit over the bar like Gilberto!
But the Brazilian made amends a few minutes later as he setup Ade for Arsenal’s third and to put Arsenal into the next round of the FA Cup against Blackburn on Saturday.
Manuel Almunia: 7/10
Made some important punches from a flurry of Bolton set-pieces but should have dealt with the corner for the goal was it was placed right under the bar. But did well to save Gary Speed’s header in extra time when the game was 1-1.
Johan Djourou: 8/10
Played out of position at right-back but did well with diagonal long balls Bolton played out wide. Contributed to a good defensive performance by the back four.
Kolo Toure: 8/10
Showed the heart of a lion and played excellently yet again. Organised the defence really well and got his head to everything.
Gilberto Silva (c): 8/10
Showed good composure at the back and coped well with Bolton’s aerial barrage in the second half. Should have really done better with the penalty though and lucky not to score an own goal when his touch from a Bolton cross hit the post.
Gael Clichy: 9/10
Was brilliant on the left and gave Rosicky some excellent support with darting runs and great passes. Did well against Diouf and limited his impact on the game.
Alexander Hleb: 9/10
Although he only lasted 77 minutes before having to come off he provided a threat all night and kept the ball brilliantly as we know he can. Defended well and was always there to help out Djourou.
Abou Diaby: 9/10
Ran all day in midfield and had a fantastic game. Great when defending set-pieces and kept the ball moving in the middle of the park – along with Denilson made Nolan and Speed look invisible.
Man of the Match. For an 18 year old he was simple outstanding and I cannot remember him losing the ball once. Does all the simple things right and amazed me all night with his composure on the ball, excellent passing and dribbling skills. Cannot praise him highly enough!
Tomas Rosicky: 8/10
Was lively all night and linked up well with the front two. Came close with a couple of opportunities and showed intelligence by exposing the space in behind the Bolton defence.
Julio Baptista: 7/10
Always looked on the periphery and couldn’t settle into the pace of the game. Had numerous clear chances to find the Bolton net but just wasn’t his day.
Emmanuel Adebayor: 9/10
He did miss a sitter but scored twice and never stopped running. Without the influencial Thierry Henry he took control of the game and showed his class. Fantastic performance.
Freddie Ljungberg: 8/10
Replaced Hleb on 77 minutes. Took a good 10 minutes to get into the pace of the game which wasn’t suprising with his lengthy injury but took his goal superbly.
Jeremie Aliadiere: 9/10
Replaced Rosicky on 90 minutes. Only played in extra time but was highly influencial – especially with the tired legs out there. Ran at the Bolton players like they didn’t exist and eased the pressure on Arsenal with his runs. His waltzing run that beat 5 or 6 Bolton players setup the decisive 2nd goal to put Arsenal into the next round. Unlucky not to start and finally looks settled in an Arsenal squad.