We Don’t Like Thursdays
Thursday 28th August
Looking at all our previous Champions League qualifiers we can all be forgiven for remembering them as relatively easy obstacles to overcome (although those of us who went to Udinese know how tough a trip that was!!) Previous results and matches however, mean absolutely nothing when the next one comes along. After 180 minutes or so, just the one goal sees a team go through. Fortunately it was not only the one that deserved it most but it was us. Altogether now, “We’re all going on a European Tour…..again…..a European Tour…..again!”
Pre-match nerves are not always present. Often, yes, but not always. Last night however, we knew if we didn’t get it right there was every chance we would get punished. And that was enough to have those jittery emotions there in the build up to the game.
We started the game well I thought, looked sharp, slick and holding our shape extremely well on the odd occasion where our visitors looked to come forward. I can remember chances falling to Jack, Alexis and Santi during that period but the fact they didn’t go in kinda set the tone for the rest of the night. With time running out in the first half we scored that all important match winning goal and a good one it was too (not that that matters!). A slick move on the edge of the box and Alexis slotted home to open his Gooner account.
Looking all ok at half time then but thoughts that an equaliser would knock us out didn’t help those nerves!!
Like many of us followers of the beautiful game I am a programme collector. In fact I tend to hoard everything and anything connected with the mighty Gooners! Looking through a Daily Telegraph article a few days ago, from December 1968 we had just overcome that lot from down the road in a two legged League Cup Semi Final, securing a one all draw at their place after winning one-nil at Highbury.
“In the 26th minute, goalscoring hero John Radford kicked the ball away as players were arguing about a free-kick. He followed the ball out towards the touchline and was pushed by Cyril Knowles. Radford retaliated by swinging a punch at Knowles’ jaw. Alan Mullery rushed over on a peace-making errand and for his pains Radford hit him as well!”
The penalty for this unsavoury but hugely amusing incident……Radders was ‘admonished’ apparently. As far as I’m aware that means the referee ‘gave him a piece of his mind!’ or ‘a damn good telling off’!
For what reason is any of this relevant to last night I hear you ask. Well, does anybody think last night’s big game was a dirty affair? Does anyone remember anything really bad happening? Do we not think it was 2 teams just battling it out for the right to play in Europe’s most prestigious competition? Last night’s referee managed to give out 9 yellows and a red. How is that right? And having seen the replay of the second yellow for Mat Debuchy it wasn’t even close to being a foul let alone a yellow but that is one example of many ridiculous situations. An absolute joke in my opinion and I’m so glad in the end it didn’t prove costly.
Keeping our shape was crucial last night I feel and I thought by and large we did this superbly. We were as good when we didn’t have the ball as we were when we did. Only numerous missed chances in the second half made it as close as it was, the last 10 minutes or so shredding those already slightly frayed nerves. Overall however, we played well I felt, we were very professional throughout (despite the ref suggesting otherwise) and ultimately we are through. Job done. Very very pleased.
Cup draws are in the news too of course starting with last night’s pairing with Southampton in the League Cup. A home draw is positive of course although having to face a fellow Premier League side hardly makes it easy! I can see it being nothing less than a tough test. I’ve given up on the chance of getting one of those interesting away draws like Burton, MK Dons, Shrewsbury or my choice out of the hat in Bournemouth. They just never seem to happen for us!
Later today we will find out who we will face over the coming months and will determine the destinations of our next three Euro jollies. I’m sure we all do it but I have made it tradition through this blog to write my chosen destinations so I will do that again this time round. 2 new cities plus 1 new ground sit in pot 2, Basel would be destination of choice, whilst 1 new city but 3 new grounds in pot 3 have me wanting Sporting Lisbon. Pot 4 I have more of a chance, 6 of the grounds I haven’t been to but I’ll go for Malmo I think (although Cyprus in September sounds quite appealing!). I bet we get Roma from that pot!
The news about Olly’s injury is extremely frustrating and disappointing but we have to get on with it for a few months without him. Back in 1970 we played Everton in our first game away from home. Charlie George broke a bone in his ankle and we drew 2-2. He returned after Christmas and we went on to do the double. I’m a big fan of omens 😉
See you in Leicester boys and girls.