The first game after the 4 – 0 thrashing of Blackburn sees the resurgent Arsenal host Hull City, conquerors of the Arsenal the last time they visited.
Confidence and optimism were at an all time high after the result against Blackburn, Walcott’s impressive return and more importantly wrestling our Champions League qualification destiny back from the faltering Villans.
Injuries and rotation saw Toure, Nasri, Bendtner, Clichy and Almunia missing out on a starting spot. In came Fabianski, Gibbs, Gallas, Vela, Van Persie and Diaby. Walcott kept his starting place after his impressive performance against Blackburn, and Arshavin shook off the cut on his leg to continue his run of domestic starts.
Kickoff saw Arsenal uncharacteristically sluggish in possession and bereft of attacking flair. Walcott provided speed and penetration but was still short of the final ball into the box, no doubt an effect of the long layoff. Van Persie and Arshavin were well marshaled by the Hull back four, denying them any space to perform their magic.
Not long after, Hull scored the opener, albeit a freakish attempt. Sagna cleared the ball from the right side of defence, only as far as Dawson, who lofted the ball towards goal, more hope than intent. Suddenly, Barmby the ex-Spudster sprang into the box and directed a left footed effort towards goal. The shot took a heavy deflection off the covering Djourou, and looped over the head of the helpless Fabianski into goal. 1 nil to the visitors.
The goal seemed to be the wake up call Arsenal needed, and they came pouring forward in search of the equalizer. However the Hull backline were holding strong, and seemed intent to catch Arsenal on the quick break.
A foul by Gallas near the edge of the box presented Hull with another opportunity to double their lead. Geovanni struck a sweet left foot curler headed to the top corner, only for Fabianski to match the shot with a brilliant save.
The half wore on, with chances falling to Arshavin, Gibbs and Vela, but none found the back of the net as the defence held firm.
Half time came and many fans must be fearing the end of another silverware campaign.
2nd half started in predictable fashion, Arsenal pouring forward relentlessly in search of the equalizer, with the visitors soaking up the pressure and catching us on the break.
The opening minutes saw big chances falling to Diaby and Song, but both failed to score. The pressure is mounting and surely the dam will crack.
Arsene sent on Bendtner and Nasri in place of Song and Vela, and soon, the move paid dividends.
Bendtner had a chance an opportunity in the box but miskicked the ball totally. But his persistence in chasing the ball saw him retriving the ball right at the byline. The cutback to Arshavin was perfect, but he faked a shot and instead teed up Van Persie for a clear shot on goal. This time, the defence was all over the place and finally, the equalizer has arrived. 1 – 1, game on.
By now, Arsenal were like a tidal wave, overwhelming Hull like a sandcastle on a beach.
The winner finally arrived 6 minutes from time, with Gallas providing the decisive touch. A Nasri freekick was lofted into the box, with the keeper MyAss, Djourou and a host of other players challenging for it. The keeper’s attempted punch instead sent the ball backwards, towards a waiting Gallas at the post, who duly obliged with a simple header to send the ball into the net. 2 – 1 to the Arsenal.
Protests were long and furious, with the visiting team arguing that Gallas was clearly off side when Djourou flicked the ball came to him. TV replays showed that the ball might have came off the keeper instead, rendering the offside null.
But more importantly, Arsenal were through to the semis, where Chelski awaits.