FA Cup Quarter Final
Manchester United 2 – 0 Arsenal
1 – 0 Fabio (28)
2 – 0 Rooney (49)
Arsenal’s quest for silverware is now down to one. Following on from the midweek defeat and failure to lift the Carling Cup – where did this new media angle of being ‘dumped out’ of a competition with two teams left, spring from? - the exit from the FA Cup is deeply disappointing, especially as Arsenal were the dominant team. And we had the obligatory poor challenge from Paul Scholes that went unpunished. It was usual Old Trafford fare…
Manchester United though have made a fine art of absorbing Arsenal pressure and lining eight players across their penalty area proved a barrier too far for the visiting talents. The lack of guile too often left Robin van Persie isolated in attack, reducing the attempts on goal to be restricted to efforts from distance, gobbled up gleefully by Edwin van der Sar.
Matters took a turn for the worst when Johan Djourou dislocated his shoulder, the manager advising that the Swiss defender’s season is over. With Thomas Vermaelen seemingly unlikely to return before the next campaign, Arsenal’s injury list is growing just as the business end of the season is upon us.
Post match, Arsène bemoaned how bad the luck of the squad is at the moment yet in conceding both goals, his XI were architects of their own downfall. The first goal came as a result of a direct counter-attack by the hosts. van der Sar relased the ball quickly following the breakdown of Arsenal pressure. Rooney broke and found Hernandez at the far post, his header pushed away by Almunia, Fabio the quckest to react, pouncing and putting United ahead.
It was a poor goal to concede; Arsenal were slow to react across the pitch, starting with the forwards and midfield when van der Sar released the ball to Djourou and Koscielny who were beaten by their opponents rather too easily. Arsenal had received a warning prior to that, Rafael blazing a header over from another swift United break.
Arsenal almost clawed the deficit back immediately. van Persie had a curling shot clawed away by his countryman before he met Nasri’s corner with power but could not guide his header into the net. Arsenal continued to press but the only real chance in the remainder of the half came when Samir Nasri tried to catch van der Sar unawares with a low shot through a defender’s leg; he didn’t and Arsenal were left trailing at the interval.
Within minutes of the restart, an opportunity to equalise had gone begging and the deficit was doubled. Koscielny and Arshavin fashioned an opening for the centre back who hesitated and in the ensuing challenge, fashioned a cross. van der Sar saved, the rebound came to the Frenchman who found once more the Man of the Match in his way.
It was to prove costly almost immediately. Rafael beat Gibbs comfortably, Hernandez found Djourou in the way, the ball squirming through the air to Rooney who guided it in via the far post, tantilisingly away from Sagna.
Arsène immediately brought Chamakh into the action, the Moroccan followed Nasri in shooting straight at van der Sar. It was a common theme of the match, Arsenal keeping the Dutchman busy with routine saves. Only once did it seem he might be beaten, Chamakh meeting Sagna’s cross but alas nothing could be garnered from the header. Rosicky tested with a venomous strike, more of a test than his air kick when unmarked on the edge of the six yard box late on.
It is a poor result, capping a miserable few weeks. Yet such is the nature of professional football, the manager, the players and coaching staff must all dust themselves down, pick heads up and get on with it. And we must do the same. Allow the media to conduct the bitching, backbiting and derision; they are so good at negativity.
Still it could be worse Arsène, you might work for MirrorFootball and the Sunday Mirror, never noted for its reporting accuracy…