By Randy Osae
Relief, oh relief. Arsenal discharged some of their woes with a clinical victory over Dynamo Kyiv, and finally forged European hopes by booking an early spot in the Champions League’s first knock-out stages.
Apart from Fabregas’ new leadership, looks were indifferent from Arsenal’s recent calamities until a late and unlikely Bedntner strike granted them a massive European and perhaps seasonal boost.
Arsene Wenger reinstated William Gallas in his side – without an armband for the first time since the end of 2006/07 season. Johan Djourou was moved to right back, while Song and Fabregas’ midfield partnership meant Denilson took the injured Nasri’s role on the left wing. Carlos Vela earned his first start outside the Carling Cup, replacing Nicklas Bedntner in the line-up.
With several youngsters included due to Wenger’s shortened options, the Carling Cup spirit was injected swiftly as Arsenal enjoyed a bossy start – quite unfamiliar these days.
Teenagers Vela and Ramsey made an intelligent move early on the right which saw the Welshman free to strike well on target but saved by goalkeeper Stanislav Bogush.
Later, Van Persie delivered a trademark pin-point free kick which was destined for Gallas, but Kyiv’s keeper quickly punched the ball clear of danger. The Dutch forward continued to press high on the Dynamo back line, as did the busy Vela, yet without any real impact in the final third.
The visitors were not too silenced, and they went close when Aliev’s teasing shot from long range tested Almunia. At the other end, Vela set up an unlikely chance with a cross that eventually stranded Kyiv’s defense, but Ramsey could only shoot well wide with pressure on him.
Gallas unleashed a flaw with a slip which almost proved costly, but Bangoura took possession to strike against the right post. Silvestre then sent Van Persie’s free kick over, when the ball was destined for either the net or to test the keeper. Gallas then put the ball into the net with a tap-in late in the half, but it was ruled offside.
The former skipper was involved again, this time, he unawarely blocked Van Persie’s goal-bound shot as Arsenal looked to make count of their opportunities.
From then on, the Gunners’ poised challenge for the opener seemed to be unluckily fruitless and such anxiety forced Wenger to replace Vela and Ramsey with Bendtner and history maker, Jack Wilshere. The English teenager became the youngest ever Gunner to play in a European competition.
With 12 minutes left, Arsenal almost lost it all when Milevskiy eased through to shoot from close-range but Almunia had wisely closed-up to meet the forward and made an incredible block. Soon after, Van Persie sent in a low drive demanding a simple deflection, but the ball lacked that touch in the box as another chance went dusted for the Gunners.
It was a logical hypothesis that Arsenal had repeated that barren result against Fenerbahce on the last matchday, but then went an intelligent long pass from Fabregas which came out of the blue. It was met and vigorously controlled by Bendnter and the Dane held off his marker to finish past the keeper with his left foot.
The villain of Arsenal’s recent misery was now a gracious hero. And he looked like one as he risked a booking by celebrating one of the most momentous goals of Arsenal’s campaign with his shirt off.
Dynamo’s Aliev concluded his side’s frustration with a sending off later on. But Arsenal had got what they deserved and on their current patch, a very desperate outcome.