Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Arsenal 5-0 Porto (Agg. 6-2): Slick Gunners Cruise Into Quarter-Finals

Arsene Wenger's side ruthlessly disposed of the Portuguese champions to progress...

Arsenal 5-0 Porto (Agg. 5-2)
Champions League Results

Arsenal produced a dominant attacking performance this evening at the Emirates Stadium to defeat Porto 5-0 and march onto the quarter finals of the Champions League.

Two first half goals from Nicklas Bendtner set the tone for the evening, and further strikes from the influential Samir Nasri, a fourth from Emannuel Eboue, and a hat-trick goal from Bendtner left the visitors ruing a defensive display that was amatuerish at best.

Arsenal set the the tone for the evening by going at the opposition from the very first whistle. Facing a 2-1 deficit from the first leg, Arsene Wenger's side craved an early goal, and they were duly rewarded in the ninth minute as Bendtner pounced.

Andrey Arshavin raced onto a Nasri through pass and as his effort rebounded from the body of shot-stopper Helton, the Danish international was on hand for a simple tap-in to give Arsenal the dream start. There was a hint of offside, but the goal stood.

From there, the match opened up; whatever Porto’s game plan may have been prior to kick off, the early goal meant that attack was their only option.

Hulk and Falcao gave the Gunners’ central defensive pairing of Sol Campbell and Thomas Vermaelen some nervy moments but perhaps should have passed to better positioned teammates instead of shooting wildly.

At the other end, Diaby drilled a volley over the crossbar, then Arshavin jinked down the left and fired a dangerous ball across goal, but there were no takers.

However, the Russian found his man on 25 minutes, and Porto only had themselves to blame for some lackadaisical defending. Fucile attempted to let the ball run out of play, but instead was forced to hit s desperately poor clearance to the feet of Arshavin, who dribbled effortlessly into the area. His angled cross landed perfectly at the feet of Bendtner, who simply couldn’t miss from three yards.

Porto pleaded for offside again, but this time the Dane was level, and the Portuguese were in utter disarray defensively, the tie dangerously close to slipping away from them altogether.

On the half hour mark, it could and perhaps should have been three. Nasri’s marauding run took him to byline, and his cutback found Arshavin with the goal at his mercy, but the former Zenit star lifted his effort over the crossbar. He took a prolonged look at the empty net, knowing that would have put Arsenal in an extremely strong position in the tie.

Arsene Wenger’s side kept the pressure on right until the break. Diaby, Bendtner, and Nasri all brought saves from Helton as Porto clung on for dear life, but the Dragoes held out and given the opportunity to regroup.

Indeed, for a spell at the beginning of the second period, Porto looked capable of making their mark on this contest. Hulk drilled a teasing cross straight across goal, before Falcao warmed the fingers of Almunia with an instinctive shot inside the area. Moments later, substitute Cristian Rodriguez leapt highest to meet a corner, but his powerful header with blocked – just – by Nasri on the line.

That was the turning point, however, for moments later the same player produced a piece of magic to extinguish the aspirations of the visitors. Nasri has only flirted with producing the kind of form that made him so coveted during his time with Marseille, but just after the hour mark he collected the ball on the touchline, bobbed and weaved past three Porto defenders before making the space to fire a sublime strike in off Helton’s far post. It was a special goal from a player who had been the outstanding individual on the pitch.

Porto may have felt hard done by, on the balance of play in the second half at least, but their woes were compounded two minutes later as Arsenal produced a breakaway goal to end the contest early.

Arshavin, another contender for man of the match on the night, timed his through pass perfectly to Emannuel Eboue as Porto were left brutally exposed, and the much-maligned midfielder showed superb composure to round Helton and slide the ball into the empty net. Arsenal’s offensive play had completely torn the now bedraggled away side asunder, and they had been left with simply no answer.

The remaining twenty-five minutes of the match were deemed irrelevant, despite Porto going through the procession of continuing to search for a route back into the match, but all in attendance knew that their heart had gone.

In the dying moments, Eboue burst into the area only to be tripped by the hapless Fucile, and Bendtner completed his first senior hat-trick with the resulting penalty kick. It merely rubber-stamped an evening that ultimately proved all too easy from the Premier League outfit.

The Gunners progressed, perhaps more easily than some may have expected, and Porto were left to rue a defensive display that deserved nothing less than failure. Credit must go to the English side, however, for the slickness of their demolition job.


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