Frank Stubbs, Fans' Diarist, October 19, 2009
European tours are always enjoyable and despite only two hours sleep due to a night at Shepherds Bush Empire watching 80s rockers The Cult, coupled with a ridiculously early morning flight from Gatwick, sitting here writing these thoughts with a nice cold beer in the centre of Alkmaar suggests this one will be no different!
Another three points in the bag from Saturday's league game also means our party are not struggling to be in fine spirits.
Like the vast majority of football fans I thoroughly enjoy Saturday 3 o'clock home games. Consequently the pre-match build up was pleasing and all present appeared to be looking forward to the game ahead with relish. A 6-2 win in our previous outing probably had something to do with the anticipation and optimism!
Once again I felt we were superb in the first half-an-hour and yet again, two stunning footballing moves ended with goals, our 2-0 lead no less than we deserved.
With the benefit of hindsight Vito probably should have punched the cross that led to Birmingham's goal. That is easy for us to say after the event however and for me if the attacking player hadn't made a challenge that nine times out of ten would have been given a foul, Vito would have caught the ball without any problem. I agree with the view that sometimes goalkeepers get a little too much protection but I don't make the rules and by the letter of the law it was a foul.
All debate aside however, it certainly made more of a game that looked like being a rout.
I enjoyed the second half for a similar reason to the game away at Fulham, even if that was an entirely different situation.
A few aspects of the second half stand out for me. We definitely weren't at our brilliant best but in turn that is probably down to the fact that virtually all our squad travelled the globe to play for their countries. But I was delighted by the way we dug in when Birmingham had probably their only dominant five minutes of the whole game, eventually of course leading to Andrey's stunningly simple crucial third goal.
Being totally fair to our visitors I thought they defended superbly in the second half and if they had gone on to grab an equaliser I'm sure their backroom staff would have claimed their tactics were spot on. For me however, our victory was more than deserved.
Abou was man of the match in that central midfield role we all hope I feel, he goes on to make his own. His performances wide in midfield have sometimes been stunning but his physique and box to box nature have always suggested he could go on to be an incredibly dominant influence in the centre.
That brings me back to a town I have visited once before, a couple of years back when we defeated our hosts fairly comfortably in a pre-season game that saw the opening of Alkmaar's new stadium.
I may be tired but I always see another potential evening's entertainment as a challenge!
I'll leave sampling the town's favourite cheese until tomorrow... or let's be honest, probably Wednesday!
Come on you Gooners!
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