22 May 2005

FA Cup returns home to Highbury

As we walked away from the Arsenal Stadium tonight, a highly inebriated but joyous gooner came up to us, and declared "We played like shit, but we won!"

And, in truth, it was hardly Arsenal's best performance. In typical fashion they dominated possession for large amounts of the game without ever doing anything meaningful in front of goal. Thierry Henri was sadly missed, as United were content to sit back early, with all 11 men behind the ball, and hit Arsenal on the break.

The second half showed the shrewdness of United's tactics as a tiring Arsenal allowed them more and more space in front of goal, and were certainly lucky not to go behind a couple of times. We were very thankful to Ljunberg's last minute headed clearance off the bar and the sterling efforts of Lehmann and Senderos.

Arsenal certainly picked up the intensity again in extra time and pressed forward in search of a goal, but even with Van Persie now in the fray there was nothing happening up front. And although Rooney and Ronaldo looked constantly dangerous, penalties were inevitable.

The big shock was that Arsenal actually won on penalties. Can anyone remember the last time that happened against any opposition outside the schoolboy league?

My views on mad Lens Lehmann are well documented, but even I have to admit he was imperious tonight. He made several great saves, was only caught out of position a couple of times, and his penalty save was exceptional.

So United managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And there's a kind of poetic justice in that, because Arsenal seem to me to have often been the better team against United without winning, and never was that more true than in that FA Cup semi-final a few years back. But then I'm a gooner, so I suppose you'd expect me to think that way.Go to eebahgum!

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