02 October 2005

Arsenal 1-0 Birmingham

Three points. Somewhat close in character to Arsenal's 2-0 win over Newcastle back in August. Birmingham began well, but found the game changed at 24' when Kenny Cunningham was rightly sent off for a last-man foul on Freddie Ljungberg. As with the Newcastle game, Arsenal couldn't find the goal until late, and again Robin van Persie was the talisman for the Gunners.

Unlike the Newcastle game, however, Arsenal had loads of opportunities. It was only due to some fantastic work from Birmingham keeper Maik Taylor that Arsenal were denied. He did very well to save fine shots from Ljungberg, Robert Pires, and Jose Antonio Reyes, as well as saving a listless Pires penalty. But he was betrayed at 81' when van Persie took a solid shot from about 25 yards. Taylor had it covered, but the shot was slightly deflected by Stephen Clemence, skipping just behind Taylor and into the goal. Arsenal were a bit lucky with the goal, but that's the nature of the game. With 13 shots on goal, the Gunners were bound to have some luck eventually, despite Taylor's fine efforts. Knock on the door long enough, and someone will let you in.

Here's what I like about this game. I like to see Arsenal withstand some early pressure. I like the fact that our defense were calm and organized for most of the match. I like that they kept bringing the pressure, and that they took several different solid chances. And I like that they got a scrappy win, despite some fine goalkeeping and mounting frustration. We needed three from the game, and we got it. Well done.

Player Ratings:
Lehmann: 6. Did a generally fine job, but had a few risky moments.
Cole: 7. Did a good job on the dangerous Pennant, and was very involved in the attack.
Toure: 7. Made several fine last-ditch tackles.
Campbell: 7. Another good game for Sol. Had a couple unfortunate touches that nearly cost the Gunners.
Lauren: 6. Less involved in normal.
Pires: 6. A good game in general, with a fine shot that Taylor did well to save. The penalty was very disappointing however.
Fabregas: 7. Did his usual Cesc thing. Had some fine moments in the attack.
Gilberto: 6. Did his usual Gilberto thing, just less of it.
Hleb: 6. Very active as usual, but slightly less involved. Still hasn't quite meshed with the team however.
Ljungberg: 7. Did well playing out of position in the striker role. Great burst of speed to force the Cunningham foul.
Reyes: 8. At this point, I wonder what sins he has committed, because it's surely only the direct intervention of the Almighty that is keeping him from scoring.

Bergkamp: 6 (61' for Hleb). Did fine, but his passes just didn't find the right people this time.
van Persie: 7 (70' for Pires). Was a bit lucky to cause the goal, but that's why you take those shots.
Flamini: 5 (87' for Ljungberg). Little time to make an impression.

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