It was supposed to be our biggest test so far; but in the end we ran out comfortable winners. Goals from Alex Song, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Marouane Chamakh gave us a 5-0 lead, before Eduardo snatched a well-celebrated consolation, and even the Arsenal fans celebrated it. The trip to Ukraine will certainly be more difficult though, and Shakhtar did threaten us on a couple of occasions.
The big team news for us was that Cesc Fabregas returned to the starting line-up in place of Abou Diaby. Tomas Rosicky replaced Andrey Arshavin, but other than that it was the same side that beat Birmingham. Eduardo started on the bench, but Shakhtar’s manager had confirmed he would play a part in the game.
We didn’t really get many chances in the first 15 minutes. Nasri floated in a ball that was just nicked away from Chamakh, who probably would have scored, but from the resulting corner we took the lead. It seemed a routine catch for the goalkeeper Pyatov, but as Arsenal fans, we in particular know it can go very wrong, and it did; he fumbled the ball, Djourou pushed it into Song’s path. Song tried a fancy finish, and it nearly backfired, as a defender flew in to block it, but luckily it came back off Song and went in.
Another chance followed soon after – Rosicky chipped a ball into Chamakh, who nodded it down to Nasri; however, his powerful volley was straight at Pyatov, who held on gratefully this time. Rosicky then had a claim for a penalty refused when he tumbled under the challenge of Darijo Srna, but soon we would get a second through super Samir Nasri.
Song exchanged passes with Emmanuel Eboue before swinging a cross into the box. Nasri nicked the ball away from Srna, cushioning it brilliantly, touched it in front of himself, and blasted it past Pyatov with ease. Soon it was half time, and Shakhtar were making a change; sadly it wasn’t Eduardo, but it was the highly-rated Douglas Costa coming on. Soon their top scorer Luiz Adriano found himself clean through, but Fabianski made himself big and stopped the shot with his body.
Soon Eduardo was set to come on, but first Arsenal had a free kick in Shakhtar’s half. The referee warned Adriano about keeping his hands down, but it didn’t seem to do anything – he tussled Djourou to the ground, the referee spotted it, or was made aware of it by one of his assistants, and whistled for a penalty. Fabregas took it, and side-footed it powerfully into the top left corner. No keeper was going to save that penalty.
As Eduardo came on to rapturous applause, Fabregas was replaced by Denilson. A few minutes after that we had a fourth. Chamakh flicked the ball around a defender to Wilshere, who played a one-two with Rosicky, took the ball in his stride and dinked the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to make it four.
5-0 followed soon after, when Nasri lifted the ball over the defence to Chamakh. He seemed a mile offside, and even stopped to check, but luckily the goalkeeper wasn’t playing to the whistle either. Chamakh quickly adjusted his feet as he saw he was onside and slotted just past the goalkeeper to make the score-line 5-0 to the Arsenal.
Eduardo grabbed a well-celebrated consolation with a brilliant stroked volley after a pull-back from Douglas Costa to make it 5-1, and the Arsenal fans applauded and cheered. Even the announcer got involved, setting up the crowd with the “Eeeeeed” from Eduardo’s Arsenal days, and the fans responded with “uuuaaardo!”. There was a happy ending for both sides.