Thursday, April 29, 2010

Camp Nou disgrace: Barcelona "win" but crash out of Champions League

If ever a 1-0 game can be so entertaining it was the Barcelona v Inter Milan second leg match yesterday. Between Mourinho running around the pitch like an out of control 6 year old after the game, or Busquets Oscar winning performance, or the drama of the match as Barca chased the 2 goals, the game was entertaining and fun to watch.

First, Milan and the Special One need to be complimented for a well strategized and executed game plan. Barcelona had an amazing 76% possession during the match, that is unheard of in a 1-0 game let alone a match at this level. You usually see that when you get a Germany vs Andorra or France vs Faroe Islands type matches. But this is Inter Milan! Yet with all that possession Barcelona really only had a handful of legitimate scoring chances and the bulk of those came towards the end of the match when Inter were playing 5 across the back with 4 "holding" midfielders, they were not even trying to go past the half way line! Barcelona clearly lacked their second play maker in the form of Iniesta (still sidelined due to injury), with an additional creative dynamo in the middle, Barca may have found the right combination sooner. I also question Guardiola taking out Ibra in the second half and putting in Bojan. He must have known that Inter were going to pack in the box with white shirts even more as the game went on, so why take out your big center forward for another "water bug" of a striker? I realize that you move Pique up to a center forward role, but are you seriously going to tell me that Pique is a better option than Ibra? Granted there are some that feel the big Swede disappears in big matches, and there is some merit to this critic, however all it takes from a player of his caliber is one moment of brilliance which is capable of, and that cannot be done from the bench. Clearly Henry is off Guardiola's radar, having been firmly planted on the bench in favor of Jeffren, to play on the left wing in the second half. Red Bull New York never looked so good.

Second, the play acting and other shenanigans of the match were entertaining but at the same time took away from what should have been a better display of football. Clearly the first incident was the Busquets acting...

Um I mean would have thought he got elbowed and then kicked in the head by Tiago Motta. It was an absolute disgraceful display but not surprising from the lanky Spanish holding midfielder (by the way I know this made my friend Sam aka The Gooner irate since it is a pet peeve of his how much this player flops - you can listen to his thoughts on the Frog and Gooner podcast!) Simulation such as this is why I think there needs to be another ref on the pitch and possibly the use of video for such game changing events such as red cards and disputed goals...more on that in another blog! Once that happened, I started rooting for Inter, no way a player like Busquets needs to be rewarded for such play acting by getting to another Champions League final! Inter is also not fault free, they clearly were feigning so many injuries to break the game's rhythm, slow down Barca, waste time it was comical. Maicon crashing into the advertising boards early on and pretending his shoulder was broken....laughable. Ever time Lucio was near the ball he appeared to have been run over by a herd of elephants, comical. Granted these tactics worked, but comical and somewhat sad to see these players leverage such bush league tactics. Of course this might have been overshadowed by the ridiculous post game activities from both sides...

What was Mourinho doing? Okay we know what he was doing, but seriously...what other manager would prance around like a peacock looking like a 6 year old at a birthday party post chocolate cake and candy - hyped up on sugar and out of control? Maybe he was showing the Camp Nou fans who was #1 only elevating  his stock in the eyes of the Real Madrid powers that be...even more farcical was Valdes attempt to stop the Special One from his post game victory dance. The most comic was the grounds crew turning on the sprinkler system to get Inter off the pitch. Stay classy Barcelona!

So we have Bayern vs Inter...what were the odds on that final? Should be a fun filled 3 weeks of Mourinho telling us how great he is and how much more difficult his club have had it compared to Inter.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More World Cup injury fears - Rooney out?

Anyone watching the weekend's match between Tottenham and Manchester United noticed that Rooney was watching the match from a luxury box and not on the pitch due to a lingering groin injury. Couple this with his lingering ankle injury and questions are beginning to creep that his place on the English plane to South Africa might be in jeopardy. With the tournament starting on June 12th for England which is 6 weeks away I think that there is plenty of time for the English striker to recover his health. Rooney has had a fantastic season and clearly is the key to England's ability to go far in South Africa this summer. This is not like a few years ago when he broke a bone in his foot, something that takes much longer to recover from.

I doubt Rooney will be left off Capello's list regardless of whether or not he is 100% healthy. However it should be a concern if Rooney is not 100% healthy for the tournament. Fortunately for England they have a group that should be easily won and could see Rooney being rested by the last group match. I think that England know they are playing their place in the first match versus the United States. If they get 3 points from that they should be clear leaders for first place in the group. This means Capello could look to have Rooney give it his all in the first match and then use him strategically for the following two matches assuming the proper result comes from the US game.

The injuries continue to mount for players...success might shine on the nation with the fewest injured stars!

PSG.....aie aie aie

PSG drops all 3 points after a 4-0 drubbing by....Grenoble. Ouch. Grenoble who is already heading to Ligue 2 corrected the team from the nation's capital. 4 days before they play the French Cup finals this cannot be good for the mental state for PSG. It is not as if Kombouare was pretending to be Wenger (in an FA Cup tie) and had a bunch of players wearing numbers in the 50s out on the pitch....Erding, Makelele, Sessegnon, Coupet et al....had their run.

PSG have a chance to secure some silverware this weekend with the French Cup finals against Monaco. It will be interesting to see what the state of mind is for the Parisians. This season has been, once again, a frustrating one for the Parisians. Seems just yesterday that this blog predicted that PSG would build off last season's good run (until the end) and would win the league title, alas. PSG is going to head back to the drawing board once again to figure out where to go. There will be some roster turn over, no doubt, this summer. The question becomes will PSG once again look to fill in the gaps with aging players or will they start figuring out what system and strategy to leverage moving forward?? I fear that they will once again take their traditional route - buy a number of "name" players that are past their prime and not build for the future.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Champions League - Return leg for 1/2 finals

So what can one say about the ability of the Frog to predict it is the inverse of what is written in this blog! I thought that the Inter v Barca match would be be a tightly played, low scoring match while the Bayner v Lyon had the potential for 4 goals....ooops.

This week we will have the 2 return legs with Inter heading to Barcelona with a 3-1 lead and Bayern heads to Lyon with a 1-0 lead.

First the match in Lyon. OL will miss Toulalan due to a red card while Bayern will suffer the same fate with Ribery. This gives Lyon a slight advantage since Bayern will not have their dangerous left winger. Granted, when Ribery went out Robben stepped up his game and was absolutely impossible to contain, granted once Lyon went down to 10 players he had much more room to roam and his goal was completely deserved. Lyon might be in trouble with their central defenders with Boumsong and Cris coming back from injury. I would think Gonanlons will be slotted as the holding midfielder with Boumsong and Cris in central defense. Much will be expected from the young midfielder to check Robben's runs. However based on what I saw in Munich, I fear that Lyon was overwhelmed by a Bayern team that was clicking with Robben and Ribery running wild on the wings. Even without Ribery, I think that Lyon will have difficulty controlling Robben for 90 minutes. I am not sure that Lyon can keep Bayern off the score sheet, meaning that Lyon will have to score at least 3 goals. Which I fear is to much to ask of this side - prediction: Lyon 1 Bayern 1 - Bayern through 2-1 on aggragate.

The second match comes off a very surprising 3-1 Inter victory in Milan against the team many feel is destined to defend their title of Champions League. Barcelona seemed completely out of sorts during the first leg. Without Iniesta, the Spanish club's midfield revolved entirely around Xavi and his ability to break down the Italian defense. Something he did not have the facility to do as he had against Arsenal. Messi was also contained, every time he came close to the ball he had his national teammate Cambiasso right on his heels usually with another defender to trap the Argentine flea. On the other hand Inter was clinical on the counter attack taking their chances and while the build ups were no way near as pretty as Barcelona's they were very effective - 3 goals. However this tie is far from over - with the away goal in hand, Barcelona have a belief they can get at least 2 goals on Inter. The question will become - can Barcelona hold off Inter from the score sheet? I cannot imagine Inter not taking the same strategy - look to shut down Xavi and keep a shadow on Messi. Inter will then look to continue to beat Barcelona on the counter - feeding Eto'o and Milito. Could Guardiola slot Henry back on the left with Ibra and Messi as a 3 headed attack formation? Try to give the formation much more width with Henry out on the left. This match will be very entertaining. I think Barcelona will come out guns blazing and look to get an early goal. If Inter can stem this early tide they are in good shape, otherwise it might become a back and forth match. I think Barcelona go up 2-0 at half time, Inter scores via Eto'o in the 70th minute only to see Barcelona fight back in added time to get the 3-1 victory which makes the aggregate a tie. In extra time both sides play more cautiously and the game goes to penalty kicks....Barca wins 6-5 in PKs.....

Barcelona v Bayern in the finals....

Friday, April 23, 2010

Platini says it straight - Les Bleus are in trouble

Ouch ouch ouch, when arguably the greatest French player ever (I would say the greatest French players of all time in no particular order - Platini, Zidane and Kopa) says the team has no chance in South Africa, that we have lost a generation and that the manager is rubbish. Can one really argue with the former French captain and manager? I certainly will not.

His comments that Domenech has not been able to get France to be greater than "nul" meaning they were zero...who can argue with that? Platini also goes on to say there is no way France is one of the best 5 nations right now - does anyone really believe Les Bleus can beat the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Holland, Ivory Coast or even England in a knock out stage in South Africa?

This latest attack from the French legend is telling of the state of France Football. Unfortunately Escallette is the only man in France let alone the planet that knows why Domenech remains at the head of Les Bleus....alas I agree with Platini....we are watching a generation wasted.

World Cup looming - injury concerns

As we draw closer to the World Cup - less than 50 days until kick off. The injuries are mounting up and taking its toll on some stars of the upcoming tournament. Players such as Gallas, Torres, Essien, Cesc, Davies, Beckham, Adler to name a few are all at risk of missing their respected flights to South Africa. None will carry as much of an impact as Michael Essien.

The Ghana captain is the catalyst for the Black Stars - he is the engine, the leader and the glue that holds the midfield together and makes the team a legitimate threat to advance in the tournament. With a nagging knee injury curtailing his Chelsea season, it is now feared that it might also keep him out for the summer tournament.  Ghana has some real belief that it can make some noise this summer, after a run to the African Cup of Nations finals, with a young team, it was thought that add the veteran metal to this side and you have a great combination of youth and veteran talent. Being in group D, with Germany, Serbia and Australia, Ghana will need its dynamic midfielder to carry the Black Stars through what should be a very physical group. Without the Chelsea man, the mountain will get much steeper to climb.

What about Espana? Del Bosque is continuing to watch nervously as his star players deal with injuries - Cesc, Senna, Torres to name a few. While there remains a tremendous amount of talent available, these are players expected to shine at the World Cup. What about Iniesta? Will he be fit in time to partner with his Barcelona teammate, Xavi, to work the midfield? Torres is going to be operated on, Cesc has a broken leg...even if they are fit in time, will they have enough time to get into game shape? Who will hold down the defensive role if Senna is not available? Alonso could slot into the role, but Senna remains the player most capable of holding that slot and allowing Xavi, Iniesta et al to work their offensive magic without concern of defensive responsibilities. Cesc was expected to be a 3rd creative midfielder or a super sub off the bench - without him del Bosque losses one of his key midfield options, one that would have allowed for a rotation keeping  his players fresh during the tournament. Finally if Torres does not make it back 100% what will that do for the offense? Granted with Villa in form he can carry a team on his own, but if Spain is looking to reach what many see as a finals appearance if not better they will need the Liverpool striker to be in his usual form. The one good note for Spain is that they should get out of their group with relative ease so may not need to lean on their injured players until later in the tournament.

What about other injuries? Gallas might be out which will only exasperate the problems France have at central defense. If Gallas is out I think the France might not make it out of the group stages...

Germany is without, who many thought, would be their #1 keeper Alder. The US has a gaping hole up front with Davies on the shelf after a horrific car wreck - he is back on his feet but not ready to resume training let alone playing.

There are still some games to go for the top players, so unfortunately more injuries might strike some of the key players and nations. Let us hope that those on the shelf return to good health and no other big names see their World Cup dreams go by way of the trainers' room.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What should Domenech do about Thierry Henry?

The former Gunner is clearly in the twilight of an illustrious career, unfortunately that twilight falls in a World Cup year, where he is the captain of his national side but does not seem to be in Barcelona's plans anymore. Doubtful he will see the pitch in the return Champions League tie versus Inter. His playing time has been limited, putting it kindly. So what should the genius Domenech do about Henry? Titi clearly wants to play in South Africa, who would not....other than a Paul Scholes....but it is not clear if he deserves to start or where on the pitch he should feature. Based on current form, Malouda might have the strongest case for holding up the left flank for Les Bleus and Ribery is starting to get his legs back.

So what to do with Titi? Play him up front? Then where does Anelka slot? If you go by what Domenech has been saying than Henry might not even be on the plane to South Africa, but we all know that is not going to happen. So instead we have a major headache with a few months to go to the World Cup - bringing Henry, potentially costing a player like Malouda playing time and seeing if Domenech can get Henry into game shape on his own....hmmmm recipe for disaster.

Lyon v Bayern - the forgotten Champions League semi final

After a shocking 3-1 win by Inter over Barca yesterday, we have the second semi finals today in Munich between Lyon and Bayern. After having to take planes, trains and automobiles...minus the planes...Lyon finally got to Munich. On paper they are the underdog. Bayern is peeking and scored a famous win over Manchester United in the last round. With Robben and Ribery picking up the pace on the wings and Olic scoring goals in bunches, it appears that the former French champion might be in for a long day.

Not so sure. With Sissoko and Reveillere on the flanks, Lyon have the players that can hold their own versus the powerful Bayern wingers. In addition, Van Bommel is suspended taking out some steel from the middle of the Bayern side as well as Badstuber, the left back, who is suspended. That should free up space for Pjanic to pull the strings in the midfield for OL. Bayern cannot underestimate the Lyon strikers such as Lisandro. Finally the x factor for both sides are their keepers - positive for Lyon huge negative for Bayern. Hugo Lloris might just steal a game in this home and away tie.

I think that Lyon will play much like they have all Champions League - organized defensively and look to counter. They will not be afraid to allow Bayern to do what they want with the ball for 2/3 of the pitch and then lock down when it gets into the Lyon defensive third of the pitch. They have tremendous faith that Lloris can come up with the big saves when called upon. The key for Bayern will be Robben, if he can win his battle with Sissoko then Bayern could find themselves with a fruitful night, otherwise it will end a draw.

Prediction - Lyon 1 Bayern 0 - goal from Bastos late into the second half.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Second podcast for the Frog and Gooner!

Second week, second podcast. Come listen to our discussion of the Champions League and whether or not Lehmann was a good keeper or just crazy!

Inter v Barcelona part III - Champions League Semi Finals

So Inter meet Barcelona for the third time of this year's Champions League after having faced one another during the group stages - a draw at the San Siro and a Barcelona victory back in Spain. Now both clubs face each other for a chance at getting to the finals in Madrid.  To many these games are just a simple victory lap for the defending European Champions on their way to a back to back title...not so fast!

This game does hold many story lines - starting with Eto'o and Ibra playing their former clubs. Throw into the mix the Special One looking to secure his first Champions League title since he won it with Porto and you have a the making of a good match up. So what should we expect?

First, an underlying story - the volcano in Iceland has forced Barcelona to bus its way to Milan. Granted the trip, according to Google maps is only a 9 hour trip. However I am sure most of these players have not had to take a bus on such a long away trip since they were kids. With an already packed calendar the extra travel time could have an impact on the game.

I also agree with the Bleacher Report that Barca might underestimate their opponents, slightly. Barcelona is playing very well, Espanyol tie aside. With the last memory of Barcelona in the Champions League of Messi completely taking apart the North Londoners it is hard to imagine how Inter will slow down the offensive juggernaut that is Barca.

However this is not Arsenal, this is Milan who will play their usual Italian style of tough defensive football. I think the key will be how they slow down Xavi - therefore try and cut off the service to Messi and Ibra. Barca is without Iniesta which takes away their 2 headed midfield attack. Inter will probably throw a combination of Chivu and Cambiasso to break up the midfield flow. This could cause some problems for Barca. The other interesting story line will be how the 2 attacking full backs - Maicon and Alves influence the match. Neither is really known for their defensive ability but more for their forays into the offensive side of the pitch. With Barcelona missing Abidal it will be interesting to see how the defensive mates of Alves cover his offensive runs.

I think in the end, the match at the San Siro will be a very cautious affair. Inter will want to avoid giving up the away goal and will probably be content to head back to Barca with a 0-0 draw or at best a 1-0 lead to defend. I am sure that Mourinho will "muscle" up Messi and Xavi see if they can cut off the center of the Barcelona park.

I see this match ending 1-1 with an early goal from Ibra only to see Inter equalize late via a goal from Maicon. This will set up an interesting return leg to Barcelona.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Frog tries his hand at a Podcast

The Bean Town Frog will now also offer its infinite footie wisdom in a podcast!!! I am joining up with my friend Sam to bring  you our thoughts and views on the world of footie please check it out on iTunes at "Frog and Gooner" you can also go to the landing page.


Domenech throws down the gauntlet, but will he follow through?

So Domenech made some noise and came out with a bold statement about players that are not in form and playing will NOT go to South Africa with Les Bleus. As the article points out, what does this mean for his captain Titi Henry? What about Benzema? How about former captain Vieira? According to Domenech he would select Vieira...hmmmm. Why? Because he would have a month to get okay. While I praise Domenech for the statement, I doubt he will abide by his words. Let us look at the case of Henry. He is clearly firmly planted to the Barcelona bench, which is not what you want from a player you expect to contribute at the World Cup. Yet he is the French captain. Add into this equation the fact he would like to play on the left where you already have Ribery and Malouda who are more deserving of holding up the position. We are a month away from when Domenech has to make his official decision of who will go to South Africa. I am sure that Henry will be on that list.

I hope that he has the back bone to make the correct decisions with regards to the older players and those that are not up to snuff. Unfortunately he has done nothing during his tenure to demonstrate an ability to lead and manage with intelligence and conviction.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bordeaux drop more points...Allez PSG!!!

So the defending French champions enter Parc Des Princes and leave with their tails between their legs after suffering a 3-1 loss to PSG. How the mighty have fallen! Bordeaux, who a few weeks ago were in the running for the Champions League and League Cup, now find themselves holding on to some hope for repeat title - they are 4 points behind leaders Auxerre but with 2 games in hand. Granted OM is in second place, 1 point off the pace and also has 2 games in hand.

So where did this season all go wrong? Granted if Bordeaux find a way to retain their title it should be viewed a success, but after such a strong start to the Champions League many were viewing Bordeaux as a team destined for more than 1 piece of silverware this season. To me it all starts and ends with Gourcuff. The break out player from last season has, at times, labored this season. I am sure it is the combination of increased scrutiny, having played the most games of his career last season coupled with greater number of games this season. Throw into the mix the fact he is now France's uncontested "#10" and you add that pressure to his slight frame. Last year he appeared to play with a much more easy and carefree manner associated with a player that is not the focal point of a nation as he is today. This is all part of player learning to assume greater responsibility and how to manage himself during a strenuous season for an ambitious club. So I am not entire surprised at his drop off - now mind you he still has had some great performances but is just not being consistent. Off the pitch, I think the constant rumors of Blanc leaving and taking over Les Bleus could not be good for the squad. This team appears to be a flux even before the end of the season and before anyone has left the club.

Bordeaux should not be count out of the title chase, but the sledding will be more difficult, especially considering OM and Lyon seemed to be hitting their strides at the right moment. Now granted PSG beat a 10 man Bordeaux, who were forced to play their 3rd string keeper. But those are 3 points that might come back to haunt Les Girondins.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

That's just Rafa being Rafa

Sigh, poor Rafa, he is the poor man of England without sufficient funds at Liverpool. Someone please get me a tissue so I can wipe my tears away. Clearly the Spaniard is setting up his exit this summer whether he leaves on his own or gets canned. Maybe Rafa needs to do some self reflecting before he starts whining about his "lack of funds." Granted
Hicks and Gillett have done a mockery of owning this side, gambling on being able to secure a new stadium, leveraging the club to repay their debts and overall underestimating the blind loyalty of the fan base. Unlike owning the Texas Rangers or the Dallas Stars, owning a club like Liverpool carries a very steep history that is ingrained in the fan base -  a fan base that is much more sensitive to every action you take and is less forgiving if it perceives your actions to be focused on lining your own pockets with cash rather than winning silverware.

But Rafa, once again, cannot hide behind these two bumbling owners for he is also to blame. Ryan Babel for 11m pounds? Robbie Keane? Aquilani? Kuyt? Not having sufficient strikers last season. Relying entirely on Gerrard and Torres for all your scoring. The list goes on. As I have stated before, were it not for 15 crazy minutes in the Champions League finals, Rafa would have been shown the door years ago. I will not shed a tear that Liverpool has wasted away seasons under the Spanish "genius" but the Reds' fans deserve a gaffer that can give them a better chance rather than spending his time whining about no funds and any other excuse he can muster to cover his poor performances.

Steve Nicol anyone?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Wenger v Domenech: rearing its ugly head again

After last week's Champions League battle between Arsenal and Barcelona, which saw Gallas taken off the pitch on a stretcher after re-aggravating his calf injury, France's fabulous gaffer came out and attacked Wenger's decision to play the French international. Granted Gallas had been battling to regain fitness from this injury for 7 weeks, however he was declared fit to play and this was no simple match versus Burnley. Wenger was well within his boundaries to play his central defender. Was he suppose to hold him out for fear that Gallas might not play for France in South Africa? Then should not play any member of his squad that might appear for their nation this summer? Absolutely not. For once I will side with the club in the battle of club vs country. Arsenal is Gallas' employer, and they have just as much interest as France does to see that Gallas is not injured, does it help Wenger's chances for a Premier league title that his central defender is now out for the remainder of the season?  Of course not.
Wenger is trying to win games and silverware, as is Gallas when he puts on the Arsenal kit (as well as the France kit). Players need to play through injuries and sometimes they run out when they might not be 100% and understand the risks they assume. Would it have been "acceptable" had Wenger allowed Gallas to train in order to gauge his fitness and he had picked up the injury there?

Domenech clearly has an ax to grind with Wenger and saw an opportunity to fire a shot at the Arsenal manager. Unfortunately, as usual, Domenech demonstrated his complete lack of grasp with the reality of the situation. Once again Domenech looks like the fool in this situation.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Arsenal's title hopes take a hit

Ouch....Cesc and Gallas ruled out for the season? That puts a serious dent in the slim chances Arsenal had for a run at the Premier League title. I think the Cesc injury might be less painful than the Gallas one, why? Nasri could slot into the Spaniard's role in the midfield. As long as Arshavin is back healthy, Wenger has some options for the midfield. Central defense, that is another story...without the Frenchman Arsenal might need to lean more on Campbell and Silvestre...neither of which conger up feelings of confidence.

Hopefully these injuries do not bleed into the World Cup since both Gallas and Cesc were regarded as key members of their national sides. Unfortunately for Les Bleus, they do not  have much cover for Gallas, whereas Spain could do without the Arsenal captain assuming Xavi and Iniesta are back to full form.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Inter get the essential and Arsenal scrap back - Champions League Day 2

I will admit when Arsenal went down 2-0 I stopped paying attention to the fault. First, the Special One made sure of the essential against CSKA by securing the 1-0 victory. A small margin heading to Moscow but the essential is done and Inter did not concede the dreaded away goal. All this came after Mourinho took away the spot light from his squad by saying he did not like Italian football. Okay. He did preface by saying he like Inter, I would hope so since they pay him a handsome salary...not sure if this was the Special One making outlandish comments to take the pressure and attention away from his squad prior to a big match or just his massive ego that once again was unleashed on the public. I would opt for the latter. Inter should be confident heading into next weeks match, it will not be an easy trip, but their 1-0 lead is something to defend and one thing the Italians are known for is the catenaccio!

The second match was much more entertaining....for those who did not turn away after the former Inter man - Ibrahimovic got his brace on a cheeky pass and finish. After watching the first half where Almunia, yes Almunia, saved the house for Arsenal making at least 3 world class saves in a matter of minutes.

Granted he went back to his old self on the first Ibra goal where he made the cardinal sin of hesitating on the ball. Rather than hold his line he timidly went out to meet a through ball and rather than continue at full speed to cut down the ball he stopped and started retreating allowing Ibra to chip him for the first goal. The second was a lightening bolt that Lev Yashin would have been hard pressed to get a finger tip to, let alone hope to stop it.

All the credit to the rest of Arsenal for then fighting back, the insertion of Walcott paying dividends with his goal for Arsenal. One could argue that Valdes should have done better with the low shot, but that is what good goal scorers do - take their chances even if they are not the perfect shot and force the other team to defend it. Arsenal would equalize on a penalty from Cesc....which is interesting because I had always understood Wenger's policy was if you were the cause of the penalty you did not take the kick. What made that play even more pivotal was that Cesc seemed to aggravate his knee on the shot and Puyol was shown red for his foul to get the penalty. Meaning Cesc might be out for a while and Puyol will miss the return leg next week.

Arsenal deserve credit in fighting back. However the task will me monumental next week - Cesc is out (injury or not he got another yellow card meaning he is suspended), Arshavin had to come out so not sure if he can play, Gallas re-injured his leg and Arsenal while level did give up 2 dreaded away goals. At least Arsenal have a better chance than they appeared to have with 30 minutes left in the game!