Arsenal 1 (Bendtner 90) Aston Villa 1 (Senderos og 28)
So much for a backlash. Arsenal’s performance yesterday was extremely poor, while Villa looked strong, quick and clever, and to their credit attacked with numbers whenever possible. Credit to their team, that is, rather than credit to their fans, who let themselves down with some appalling Eduardo chants, vile and unnecessary given how most clubs have wished the Croatian a speedy recovery.
On the pitch, Walcott started up front, and forced good saves from Scott Carson at the start of both halves, but other than that the opposing keeper had little to do – Hleb forcing a routine save and Cesc missing a chance that Adebayor tried too hard to supply to his right foot were about the sum of things.
And by then, Villa were ahead. The goal was unfortunate on Senderos – Agbonlahor’s cross hit his shins and rebounded in, with Carew lurking behind the Swiss defender to apply the finish if necessary. But Villa were causing havoc on a regular basis, with their pacey forwards counter attacking with real menace whenever they had the ball, and Almunia was making impressive saves to keep the deficit at one.
As the second half wore on, the situation became more and more desperate, and it was a surprise when the equaliser finally came, four minutes into injury time. Clichy’s cross was aimed at Adebayor, and for once the Villa defence slacked, too many men got drawn to the big man, leaving Bendtner free to slot home his knockdown. To say the point was merited would be stretching things – in reality Villa probably deserved all three points.
But having been so cruelly denied in the last minute last week, it is incredible to witness the different scenes when you are the ones who score so late. This point not only keeps us ahead of a resurgent United, but it might just give the players the lift they needed. Getting Van Persie, Toure and Rosicky back is also important, because our squad is not as deep as United’s, and many more injuries, in creative positions especially, and we could be in trouble.
Perversely, it might help our league challenge if we went out on Tuesday night. But on the flip side, the season was reinvigorated with a victory in the Bernabeu two years ago. What price another one, in the San Siro this time, providing the launching pad?