Arsenal 1-1 AS Roma
UEFA Champions League
2nd Stage Group B
March 11, 2003
Vieira 12 (Arsenal), Cassano 45 (AS Roma) 

By Richard Clarke

Arsenal face a nervous night at Valencia in the final game of Champions League Group B after allowing 10-man Roma to come back and snatch a point at Highbury.

The home side looked to be cruising with seconds left in the first half. Patrick Vieira's header put them ahead in the 12th minute. Soon afterwards, the influential Francesco Totti received a straight red card after clashing with Martin Keown.

But in injury time before the interval, Cassano popped up to round David Seaman and tap the ball into the empty net. Picking it out was as much work as the England keeper had had to do in the preceding 45 minutes.

The second half was predictably frustrating with Roma proving resilient in defence and dangerous on the counter-attack. However Arsenal simply could not carve out a clear-cut opening.

With Valencia and Ajax also drawing 1-1 in Amsterdam, any of the four teams can reach the quarter-finals. Roma entertain the Dutch side in the final round of matches next Wednesday. Arsenal need a point at the Mestalla Stadium to reach the last eight.

Keown had only started the game after recovering from a calf strain. He was partnered Pascal Cygan for only the second time after Sol Campbell's Achilles injury ruled him out a few hours before kick-off.

Other changes from Saturday's FA Cup tie with Chelsea saw Gilberto, Robert Pires, Sylvain Wiltord and Dennis Bergkamp back in the starting line-up. Freddie Ljungberg was left on the bench.

As Wenger had predicted, the game was more open than the first two games at Highbury in Champions League Group B. This was now the business end of qualification for the quarter-finals and victory was essential for both sides.

Arsenal had already begun peppering the Roma penalty area before they took the lead in the 12th minute.

Thierry Henry's free-kick was needlessly nodded for a corner by Damiano Tommasi. Giovanni van Bronckhorst swung the ball over into the centre of the penalty where Vieira had stolen a few feet of space. He stretched his 6ft 4ins frame to leap above his marker and divert a header past Ivan Pelizzoli.

It was only his second goal in the Champions League and that was a header too - against Bayer Leverkusen last season. Vieira nearly trebled his tally in the 19th minute. Pires' cross again found the captain unmarked in the area. He stooped low and made firm contact with the header but Pelizzoli thrust out a hand to divert it wide.

The Romans were wobbling and their task looked gargantuan after Totti was dismissed for clashing with Keown just outside the area. The Italian playmaker was considered a major threat by Wenger in the build-up to this game. His tussle with Keown left the Arsenal defender holding his face and referee Urs Meier immediately brandished the red card.

The dismissal stifled the game for a while but Arsenal soon rediscovered their rhythm. Nine minutes before the break Henry fed Wiltord, who tested the keeper with a low shot on the turn.

Pires had a header ruled out for offside two minutes later after Vieira again won the ball in the air following a Van Bronckhorst corner. Then Bergkamp fired across goal when well-placed.

Arsenal looked comfortable but in the dying seconds of the half, Emerson's pass was chested past Seaman by Cassano who had the simple task of scoring into the empty net.

Within two minutes of the restart, Arsenal nearly regained the lead. Bergkamp broke quickly but, at the same time, waited before sliding the ball to Wiltord. The Frenchman took a few paces forward but his shot was too close to Pelizzoli at the near post.

The same duo combined in the 53rd minute and this time Wiltord fired over the bar. Seconds later Pires did the same thing having dribbled around two defenders to create enough space.

Suddenly Arsenal were chasing down every ball and attacking in waves. The Highbury crowd played their part, willing their heroes forward.

However it was proving difficult to break down the Roma defence. Also, with Vincente Montella replacing Cassano, their lone front man had both fresh legs and experience.

Midway through the half, Van Bronckhorst's free-kick hit Bergkamp's foot and sailed to Keown, who nodded tamely into the keeper's arms. But there was never a clear sight of goal.

With 17 minutes remaining, Wenger replaced Bergkamp and Wiltord with Francis Jeffers and Freddie Ljungberg. It only added to the urgency.

Despite the incessant Arsenal pressure you sensed Roma would get a chance. It came with eight minutes left. Cafu raced clear and sent a cross over from near the corner flag. Montella cleverly stepped away from Keown at the right moment but his firm header whistled a few feet over the bar.

As the seconds ebbed away, the Arsenal players continued to pour forward but the goal would not come.

Arsenal Seaman, Lauren (Kanu 88), Keown, Cygan, Van Bronckhorst, Wiltord (Jeffers 73), Gilberto, Vieira, Pires, Bergkamp (Ljungberg 73), Henry. Subs not used Taylor, Parlour, Stepanovs, Toure.

AS Roma Pelizzoli, Panucci, Aldair, Samuel, Candela, Cafu, Emerson, Tommasi, Lima, Totti (sent off 22), Cassano (Montella 62). Subs not used Antonioli, Sartor, Fuser,Cufre, Guigou, De Rossi.

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
19 Dec 2008