Following the nervy win over Wigan, Arsenal travels to Porto for the last game of the Champions League group stage. With qualification already confirmed, all was left between the 2 sides were the top spot and bragging rights.
Arsenal was missing a host of first team regulars after the Wigan game, Clichy, Fabregas, Adebayor, Nasri, Sagna, Van Persie and Toure missed the trip. Add on the ever-present Rosicky and recovering Eduardo and Walcott, our injury list looks somewhat like a transfer wish-list for many clubs.
The starting line up of the night read: Almunia, Eboue, Gallas, Djourou, Silvestre, Denilson, Ramsey, Song, Diaby, Vela and Bendtner.
Arsene went for a 4-5-1 formation with Ramsey and Vela on the right and left wing, Bendtner the lone man up front. As promised, Arsene started Eboue on the right to continue the reintegration back after his 9 game layoff.
The game started on a slow note with neither side showing the usual tempo and urgency. Arsenal created the first clear cut chance of the game in the 4th min when Denilson swung in a freekick on the left, which flew over the bar after being challenged by both Djourou and Diaby.
Porto quickly responded in like and snuck in a freekick of their own as well, which Almunia did well to save to his low right.
Further chances fell at both ends, with Ramsey exchanging passes with Bendtner and firing in a shot which the Porto keeper saved at full stretch.
6 min before half-time, Porto drew first blood. A corner was sent in to the far corner, which was connected by the centre back Alves’ head. The ball headed onto the ground and bounced into the net. 1 nil to Porto.
2nd half resumed in pretty much the same flow, Porto was dominating and threatening to score a 2nd.
The 2nd goal for Porto finally arrived when Lisandro fired a rocket in after being setup by Fernando. The ball bulged the net and it was 2 nil to Porto.
Arsene acted swiftly and replaced Ramsey and Diaby with Gibbs and young Wilshere. However the effects of their substitutions proved limited, as Porto continued to dominate. Porto carved out more chances, and if not for some wayward finishing, they might have been 4 nil up.
Randall came on in the 78th min to replace Song, and his arrival brought more impetus and energy to the team, which was lacking throughout.
However it wasn’t enough to mount a fightback and the score of the night ended 2 nil to Porto.
Porto claims the top spot of the group and Arsenal slips to 2nd. Both teams are through to the next round and we’ll await the draw to see if there might be serious repercussions to our defeat tonight.
Next up, Middlesborough at the Riverside Stadium.