Job done for Gunners
On a miserable night in the Czech capital it was a case of mission accomplished for an inexperienced Arsenal side.
By Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 07/11/07 10:04pm
On a miserable night in the Czech capital it was a case of mission accomplished for an inexperienced Arsenal side that ground out a 0-0 draw against Slavia Prague, which secures their progression to the UEFA Champions League's last 16.
Arsene Wenger's 100th game in Europe's premier competition was defined not by a trademark fluid display of pass and move but on the contrary; one of discipline and determination that will please him none the less.
A fortnight ago Arsenal's 7-0 demolition job against the same opposition had the purists purring but only disciples of dour would have enjoyed this war of attrition in the biting Prague cold and rain.
The first half conjured just a solitary incident of note as Manuel Almunia produced a decent stop to tip over Zdenek Senkerik's sharp turn and shot from just inside Arsenal's box.
After the interval and it was again Almunia in the thick of the thinnest of action as his excellent parry denied Senkerik again, at the midway stage of another unremarkable 45 minutes.
The visitors' much-changed side made a bright start, with young Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner looking strong in attack on his full debut in Europe's elite club competition.
However, the hosts were rewarded for a spell of their own pressure with a right-wing corner on 15 minutes, which like the rest of the game, came to nothing.
The match then dropped in tempo as both teams were careless in possession and failed to spring the offside trap.
As the half-hour mark passed, slowly the home side settled into a rhythm, which often had Arsenal on the back foot. When Arsenal did break down the right through Theo Walcott, his final delivery towards Bendtner in the middle was poor and failed to clear the first defender.
On 36 minutes, Senkerik capitalised on a slip by William Gallas to get in on the right side of the Arsenal penalty area. However, his angled shot-on-the-turn was tipped over by goalkeeper Almunia.
The weather took a turn for the worse during the interval, as the heavens opened to flood the pitch.
Michal Svec was cautioned for tripping Eduardo, with the ball skidding off the wet surface.
The hosts felt they had a strong penalty claim on 50 minutes when Senkerik went tumbling under pressure from Lassana Diarra, but the referee waved away appeals which television replays suggested was a sound call.
The Arsenal man was then cautioned when he clattered into Svec, who had to be stretchered off for treatment.
Slavia made a change on 64 minutes when David Kalivoda replaced former Liverpool man Vladimir Smicer, just back from injury.
On 75 minutes, substitute Kalivoda sent a long pass forwards, which caught the Arsenal defence flat-footed.
Senkerik was being chased down by Gallas as he ran into the area, where Almunia came out quickly to make a crucial save.
Wenger sent on Togo frontman Emmanuel Adebayor, replacing Bendtner with Eduardo then being given a rest and Emmanuel Eboue put into the action.
Denilson's body check on Milan Ivana with eight minutes left earned him a yellow card and gave away a free-kick on edge of the Arsenal penalty area, which fortunately for the young Brazilian came to nothing - just about summing up the match as a spectacle.
|Slavia Prague||Team Statistics||Arsenal|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|2||Shots on Target||1|
|3||Shots off Target||2|