Arsenal no longer have their Premiership fate in their own hands
after being held to a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth on Wednesday
Thierry Henry gave the visitors a deserved lead in the 36th
minute with a wonderful curling shot from distance. Before and
after half time, Emmanuel Adebayor should have
added to the lead. They were made to pay for those misses
midway through the second half when Lomana Tresor Lua Lua guided
home a header from a free-kick by Andres D'Alessandro.
The point moves Arsenal up to fifth but they are now four points
behind Tottenham, occupiers of the final Champions League place,
with both sides having just five games left to play.
Martin Jol's side have a tough run-in, during which they
will visit Highbury. The task facing Arsenal is to win all their
games - especially that one - then hope other results go their
Having left out Henry at Old Trafford on Sunday, Arsène
Wenger sprang another surprise tonight at Fratton Park.
We already knew that Sol Campbell would be re-joining Kolo Toure
at centre back for the first time since February 1. The revelation
concerned the pair directly in front of them. With Cesc Fabregas
already absent due to a foot injury, the Arsenal manager chose to
omit his central midfield partner, Gilberto, as well. Abou Diaby
was drafted in along with Alex Song, who was making his first
Emmanuel Eboue was rested so Johann Djourou came in at right
back. Henry and Freddie Ljungberg were restored to the starting
This was the 'game in hand' for both sides - even though
it was required for differing reasons. The situation affected
the opening stages. The first quarter-hour was over-eager, staccato
stuff with neither side carving out anything of note.
Arsenal were the better side but the pace and trickery of Lua
Lua was giving Campbell a tough return. The England defender coped
In the 16th minute, Adebayor miscontrolled on the edge of the
area when well placed and Linvoy Primus rushed in to rob the ball.
Then Henry sent a free-kick over the bar.
In between those efforts, Toure had to race back and deny
Benjani Mwaruwari when the Zimbabwean striker looked likely to
profit from a slip by Jens Lehmann.
Gradually Arsenal were starting to turn the screw. In the 33rd
minute Diaby won the ball in midfield and fed Henry. He found Reyes
on the right of the area. The Spaniard found the sidenetting when
he should have tested the keeper.
Four minutes later the visitors made the breakthrough. Henry
eased Sean Davis off the ball five yards outside the Portsmouth
area, exchanged passed with Adebayor and curled a delightful shot
past Dean Kiely and into the net off the far post. It was typical
The lead should have been doubled three minutes before the
break. A Portsmouth corner was cleared to Reyes on the left. He
swept the ball cross-field to Henry. The striker elected not to
shoot. Instead he threaded the ball to Adebayor at the far post. It
seemed the perfect option as the goal opened up for the Togolese
striker. Incredibly he miscued his effort and the ball rolled out
for a goal-kick.
Arsenal had two more chances to kill the game 10 minutes into
the second half. First Henry allowed Mathieu Flamini to take the
ball off his feet 12 yards out then, more wastefully, an unmarked
Adebayor failed to convert point-blank header after Reyes had swung
a corner to the far post.
The misses would come back to haunt them. In the 66th minute,
Campbell fouled Lua Lua on the right and, when D'Alessandro
swung over the free-kick, the ex-Newcastle striker leapt in front
of Diaby to divert a header into the far corner.
An injury forced Lua Lua off the pitch a couple of minutes later
and Harry Redknapp switched from 4-4-2 to a more protective
Soon afterwards, Wenger also made changes - Van Persie for
Adebayor then Alexander Hleb for Reyes.
The alterations did not manufacture much until the final three
minutes. Henry sent Ljungberg clear on the left of the area but the
Swedish midfielder's shot was blocked by Kiely.
Djourou appeared from nowhere to meet the corner at the far
post. He had a free header but could only steer the ball across
goal and wide of the far post.
Referee: Uriah Rennie
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