By Randy Osae
A 1-1 draw in Ukraine was the best Arsenal earned in their first game of “road to Rome 2009”.
Judging from the event, Arsene Wenger can be rightly dubbed as a prophet apart from being “the professor”. Prior to the match, the French tactician boldly admitted he would accept a “kind” draw with open arms. And even that did not come easy. Had it not been Gallas’ savior late-on, it would have been another depressing European night.
Wenger interestingly kept Walcott ahead of a half-fit Eboue, while Denilson played Nasri’s role on the left, allowing a berth for Alex Song who patnered Cesc Fabregas in midfield.
The visitors had a partial spell of proceedings at the 17,000-seater stadium. The first half was all about Arsenal’s creativity to go forward, but they struggled to finish off any opportunities. Kyiv did have breakthroughs but their lack was Arsenal’s quality of creating chances.
Those who came close enough were van Persie and Adebayor. The Dutchman, after being set-up by Walcott, saw his shot blocked by keeper Stanislav Bogush. Emmanuel Adebayor also benefited from a mistaken back-pass by Roman Eremenko but the Togolese’s killing effort was awful. Later on, Sagna’s cross met van Persie who again, missed the target with a smash. Fabregas also volleyed at the goalkeeper’s dive from eight yards out with his left foot when an open space was carved for him by van Persie.
The second half began with a promise of the match ending at a stalemate. Both teams knocked each other off possession but things were pulsating.
It was off a counter attack by Kyiv that earned them the lead from the penalty spot. Sagna was astonishingly adjudged to have brought down Vukojevic in the box and Bangoura did not mind beating Almunia expertly.
The Ukrainian contenders defeated Arsenal in the past two meetings but lost all six Champions League games last year. Their fans erupted with the idea of a massive victory over quarter-finalists Arsenal.
The Gunners made their fight from both pitch wise and on the sidelines as Song and Sagna were replaced by Bendtner and Eboue. But the man who salvaged the point was captain Gallas.
The centre back lashed onto a low cross by Theo Walcott and that was it – Arsenal had secured that “good enough” draw Wenger reckoned.