Arsenal (5) – (0) FC Porto
Bendtner (10′, 25′, 89′), Nasri (63′), Eboue (66′)
The Emirates Stadium, London
All the pre-game talk was about the absence of Cesc Fabregas. Without our inspiration captain, several pundits tipped us to go out.
But in the end, we hardly missed him. And that’s great credit to the rest of the squad.
And it was also great credit to the lads that they had such a positive reaction to the poor showing in the first leg to turn the tie on its head.
Arsenal set their stall out with a virtually all-out-attacking mindset from the off and Porto just couldn’t cope with it. It was a typically high-tempo performance where Arsenal threw men forward at every opportunity.
It was entertaining to watch, and Arsenal created opening after opening.
Andrei Arshavin was having a hit an miss game – one minute doing something sublime and then carelessly losing the ball the next. But he was the one who was highly influential in Bendtner’s (and Arsenal’s) first two goals.
Nasri, who was my Man of the Match, played in Arshavin, who ran towards goal in a five way chase for the ball. No-one really won it and the ball bounced to Bendtner who stretched out and poked the ball into the net. The perfect start for Arsenal after 10 minutes.
Arshavin rinsed Porto’s right back Jorge Fucile for the second, by running to the byline and giving Bendtner an easy tap in.
After that, the game was Arsenal’s for the taking and Arshavin had a golden opportunity to top off a decent first half performance with Arsenal’s third but he hit his effort over the bar.
In the second half, it was Porto who had the better of the opening 10 minutes, with the tricky Radamel Falco having a decent effort saved by Almunia. Arsenal’s energy levels dipped after the break and Porto enjoyed more of the possession and also had a headed effort saved off the line by Nasri.
And it was Nasri who produced a moment of magic only minutes later.
He picked up the ball on the right hand side, coolly waltzed passed 5 or 6 Porto players before smashing the ball right into the far corner.
A moment of genius from the man who stepped up in the absence of Fabregas.
A stunning goal, and a decisive one.
Samir Nasri’s all round performance was outstanding. He ran his bollocks off chasing back and closing down players but also linked the play beautifully, showed great skill and touch as well as being dangerous going forward. And to top it all off he saved a header on the far post.
Pretty much a perfect performance from him.
Arsenal had Porto on the ropes at this point and they really rubbed salt into the wounds with a stunning counter attack.
From a Porto corner, the ball found its way to Arshavin who carried the ball 60 yards before playing in Eboue with a beautifully timed and weighted through pass. Eboue smartly knocked it passed the stranded Helton before slotting the ball into the net.
Game, set and match.
The game petered out slightly after that, but with seconds left on the clock the impressive Eboue won a penalty that Bendtner happily dispatched. The first Arsenal hattrick in Europe since Alan Smith’s back in the day.
Football’s a funny old game. With Bendtner missing those sitters against Burnley who would have bet he would get a hattrick against Porto? I honestly wasn’t concerned about his misses at the weekend and obviously Bendtner wasn’t either. Once the Dane scored that third goal I did think about all that nonsense between him and Adebayor a couple of seasons ago.
I wonder who’s having the last laugh now Ade?
Manual Almunia: 7/10
Was asked to deal more with pass-backs than shots but dealt well with the few saves he had to make.
Bacary Sagna: 8/10
Tremendous energy levels and was virtually a winger in the Arsenal attacks. Dealt well with Varela and made some great tackles.
Sol Campbell: 7/10
Struggled at times tonight. Overall did okay, but at times couldn’t cope with the tricky Falco. One thing I did notice (and like) from Campbell was that he ignored every taunt or expression from opposing players. Whenever anything happened with a Porto attacker he would just get up and walk away. Brilliant!
Thomas Vermaelen: 9/10
Made some really stunning defensive blocks and Almunia will be grateful for those. Solid, composed and made some vital interceptions as well.
Gael Clichy: 8/10
Like Sagna, was instrumental in adding width to the Arsenal attacks. Supported Diaby and Arshavin well, and defended well on the whole. Did make one or two silly mistakes, but fortunately Arsenal weren’t punished.
Alex Song: 8/10
Made some great interceptions and tracked back well. Tarnished his performance slightly by trying to over-play now and then after winning the ball, which resulted in cheaply losing possession.
Abou Diaby: 8/10
Much improved work ethic this season and linked up well with Song, Nasri and the front three. Helped dominate the midfield which ultimately decided the tempo of the match.
Samir Nasri: 10/10
Just about perfect. Scored a stunning goal, saved a certain goal off the line and ran his socks off. Great desire and that was possibly the most impressive thing about his performance. All over the pitch and some of his touches were breathtaking. He was inspirational and he was instrumental in setting that high energy tempo which Porto couldn’t handle. A complete performance.
Andrei Arshavin: 7/10
It’s crazy to say this since he made 3 goals but he was on the periphery for most of the game. But I suppose with talent and skill like his it only takes a moment to show his brilliance.
Tomas Rosicky: 7/10
High energy performance and worked well for the team.
Nicklas Bendtner: 9/10
Fantastic performance from the Dane. He won countless headers, held the ball up well, showed great desire and scored 3 goals to boot. Showed character after his Jason Lee-esque finishing at the weekend but really put in a great shift against Porto. He is vital to whether Arsenal will win anything this season, so let’s hope he keeps this up.
Emmanuel Eboue: 8/10 (Replaced Rosicky 58′)
Only came on for a 30 minute cameo but was excellent. Show fantastic desire to score his goal and won the penalty for Bendtner’s third. Look dangerous whenever he got the ball and never carelessly gave away possession.
Denilson: 7/10 (Replaced Nasri 72′)
Slotted in midfield well but really wasn’t asked to do much.
Theo Walcott: 7/10 (Replaced Arshavin 76′)
Looked lively but couldn’t quite make the kind of impact he did at the weekend.