Stunning Arsenal slay Slavia
Arsenal were simply magnificent as they equalled a Champions League record in beating Slavia Prague 7-0.
By Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 24/10/07 9:43am
If the beautiful game is best defined by Brazil's luminaries of 1970 the current Arsenal crop are arguably the closest to a modern equivalent; and Slavia Prague will testify to such a theory after being on the end of a 7-0 thumping at the Emirates Stadium.
From the first to the last Arsene Wenger's side were imperious. At the hub, as ever, was the general Cesc Fabregas and aided by his chief lieutenants Theo Walcott and Alexander Hleb, Arsenal conjured a brand of football that was as atheistically appealing as any being played in European football.
It was fitting that Fabregas started the massacre and when he did, in only the fifth minute, it was a curling effort worthy of a midfield master at the peak of his powers.
Thereafter and a combination of Arsenal's verve and Prague's ineptitude made for a mismatch of monumental proportions, as David Hubacek put through his own goal and Theo Walcott scored on his first Champions League start before the break.
Prague were ready to concede at three down, but Arsenal were ruthlessly efficient as they went for the jugular. Hleb concluded a stunning move with the finish it deserved before an electric Walcott grabbed his second.
One of the moves of the season was responsible for Fabregas' brilliant second before substitute Nicklas Bendtner scored a record breaking seventh -which ensures Arsenal enter the history books with a joint-record winning margin they now share with Juventus.
The 2006 European Cup finalists had looked bright from kick-off, and it was no surprise when they took an early lead.
Only one thing was on Fabregas' mind when the ball fell kindly to him on the edge of the area, somewhat fortuitously after an untimely slip by his marker and following good work by down the left by Hleb.The finish was, as expected, out of the top drawer, a curled effort past Prague keeper Martin Vaniak, whom you suspected would be in for a busy night.
And so it proved as the Gunners doubled their lead after 24 minutes.
This time it was the Belarus midfielder who benefited from some poor defending and a wicked deflection. Slavia failed to deal with a ball into their six-yard box from the right, and it dropped at the feet of Hleb. Vaniak looked to have his angled drive covered, only for defender Hubacek to stick out a leg and take the ball in the opposite direction, into the back of the net.
Left-back Daniel Pudil then elected to knock the ball back to his keeper from the near touchline. The Slavia keeper, though, made a complete hash of his attempted clearance, and gifted possession to Walcott.
The England starlet still had some work to do, but showed quick feet to expertly round the stranded keeper and slot the ball between two rapidly retreating defenders and into the net from 18 yards.
With another victory in the bag, Arsenal were able to play with freedom following the restart.
That proved more bad news for Slavia, as Hleb made it 4-0 after 51 minutes, turning the defence inside out down the left and drilling a low strike past Vaniak.
The crowd were soon on their feet again when the impressive Belorussian slipped Walcott away with a superb pass inside the full-back, and the teenager promptly stabbed the ball in off the far post.
It was six when Arsenal broke quickly after defending a corner through the all-action Hleb in a sweeping move which involved Adebayor and Walcott, who unselfishly sent Fabregas in for his second.
Manuel Almunia - again preferred to veteran German Jens Lehmann - ensured a clean sheet when he tipped a drive from Matej Krajcik around the post.
Tomas Rosicky struck the bar before substitute Bendtner tapped in a seventh on the stroke of full-time from Emmanuel Eboue's brilliant flick.
On this showing, the rest of Europe should be very wary of the threat posed by Wenger and his style council this season.
|Arsenal||Team Statistics||Slavia Prague|
|3||1st Half Goals||0|
|11||Shots on Target||4|
|6||Shots off Target||3|