Post-Match Report

Arsenal 2-0 Juventus - Match Report

05/06 Arsenal 2-0 Juventus

Juventus -

UEFA Champions League
UEFA Champions League
2 0

By Richard Clarke

In the build-up to this game, the mighty figure of Patrick Vieira dominated the discussion. In its aftermath, all the talk will centre on the somewhat smaller frame of his Highbury heir apparent.

Cesc Fabregas scored the first goal and made the second for Thierry Henry as Arsenal took control of this Champions League Quarter-Final with Juventus.

They will go to Italy for the second leg next week with an utterly deserved 2-0 lead. Juve flickered briefly at the start of each half but were outfought and out-thought by an Arsenal side brimming with confidence.

This was a complete performance, albeit with some stand-out stars - Fabregas was impish, Reyes was rampant, Henry was unstoppable and Toure was towering. 

Juve ended with nine men after Mauro Camoranesi and Jonathan Zebina were sent off in the final minutes. But by that time the game was won.

The tie will be decided in Turin next Wednesday but, for the moment, it is advantage Arsenal. 

Arsène Wenger's one change to the team that had beaten Charlton 10 days ago was significant. The cup-tied Emmanuel Adebayor dropped out and Jose Antonio Reyes returned from injury. The Spaniard slotted in on the left of a five-man midfield. Henry was a lone frontman with Robert Pires offering attacking support from an advanced position in the centre.

The rain that lashed down at Highbury just before kick-off was reminiscent of Portsmouth on Saturday. However, this pitch was understandably greasy but otherwise perfect. 

The first few minutes belonged to Juve. They penned Arsenal back towards the North Bank and sent inquisitive passes into the channels. The nearest they came to scoring was when Toure blocked Zlatan Ibrahimovic just outside the area in the eighth minute. The Swede took the free-kick himself. Had it not skimmed off the end of the wall then Jens Lehmann would have been called into his first serious action.

Gradually Arsenal gathered themselves. Their tackles found their snap just as their passes found one another. Then they started going forward. In the 16th minute, Hleb ran out of space by the right-hand corner flag but his quickly taken throw-in found Pires in the area. As he chested the ball down he spotted Fabregas running in behind. The Frenchman's backheel sent the Spaniard free. Unfortunately his shot was scuffed wide. He would more than make amends a little later.

Juve were still predatory and Toure had to clamber the north face of the mountainous Ibrahimovic on many occasions. He was always sure-footed.  Henry saw a shot deflected over soon afterwards and, six minutes from half time, the top-scorer would create the opener.

Pires won the ball on the right and flicked the ball inside to his compatriot in midfield. Henry spotted Fabregas darting into the area and his pass was perfect. The 18-year-old cushioned the ball and then slipped his shot between the legs of Lilian Thuram and past the flat-footed Gianluigi Buffon. 

A minute later, it could have been 2-0. Henry found space in the area and, as usual, fooled his way into a few feet of space. Highbury held its breathe and hooked his left foot around the ball to shoot from the acutest of angles. His shot was wide of Buffon - and the far post as well.

Juve seemed re-vitalised after the restart. It took another swashbuckling Toure tackle to deny Ibrahimovic as he burst through. Lehmann also had to shepherd a number of crosses whipped in from the flanks. 

However their early pressure would be fleeting once more. In the 55th minute, Emmanuel Eboue might have sneaked an unlikely second for Arsenal when his cross deflected high off Gianluca Zambrotta and onto the roof of the net.

Three minutes later, Reyes race forward and squared for Fabregas just outside the area. He spurned the chance to shot and found Henry on the right. He cut inside his marker to open up the angle for a left-foot shot. His effort had power but was perhaps a touch too close to Buffon. The Italian No 1 threw out his right hand to divert the ball around the post.

In the 64th minute that same palm would prevent Fabregas scoring from an identical position as Arsenal cranked up the pressure. 

When Hleb's low shot was saved at the near post a couple of minutes later you sensed that the Juve goal was living on borrowed time.

And so it proved. 

In the 69th minute, Hleb slipped a ball to Fabregas just outside the area. His presence has attracted to Buffon forward so, when the youngster squared to Henry 12 yards out, the captain had the relatively simple task of hooking the ball into the unguarded net. 

Pandemonium ensued. If this was to be the last great European night at Highbury then it was one hell of a send-off.

A minute after the goal, Vieira was booked. He will miss the second leg in Turin. The same goes for Camoranesi, who was sent off with four minutes to go after receiving his second yellow cards.

Just before that, the Italian midfielder had caused consternation with a chip from outside the area. It floated past the far post and, it seemed, Juve's hopes of salvaging anything went with it.

Jonathan Zebina's sending off for a second booking with a minute left just added to their misery.

Referee: Peter Frojdfeldt
Attendance: 35472

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