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The one that started it all

Arsenal are through to the quarterfinals stage of the Champions League and with that exorcised the ghost of being unable to fight back from a first leg deficit. Bendtner has finally got the hattrick of goals and he deserved it. Any player that misses that many chances just barely 3 days ago is bound to be affected by it. But Bendtner has an unshakeable belief in his own qualities.

His early goal in the 7th minute calm some nerves in the Arsenal camp and duly added the second after good work from Arshavin on the left hand side. The penalty which sealed his hattrick was virtually the last kick of the game. Another plus point is that he kept winning headers against the giant that is Bruno Alves. That is 6 goals it the last 5 games for the Danish international. He deserves all the accolades and I only hope that he can maintain it up till the end of the season.

Samir Nasri added the third goal 15 minutes into the second half and it was game over for Porto. That was the tie clincher. At 2-0, there’s still a chance that Porto could nick one back and the match could go into extra time. Without Fabregas, Nasri was entrusted with the captain’s role and the Frenchman did not shirk from the responsibility. He was bright all around and popped up all over the pitch.

It was his incisive through ball to Arshavin which lead to Bendtner’s opening goal. Capping off a wonderful performance, he tricked and wriggled his way past 3 Porto players, all done inside Porto’s penalty area, and slammed the ball past Helton and into the net. It makes it more amazing that he seemed to have jarred something very early in the first half but did not let it affect him.

Eboue came on for a tiring Rosicky in the second half and followed-up Nasri’s goal with the fourth of the night with just 2 minutes separating the two goals. Breaking away from a Porto’s corner, Arshavin ran half the length of the pitch before slipping Eboue in. The Ivorian had done well to keep up with the Rusian in the first place. Taking the ball away from the keeper on the first attempt and calmly slotting the ball into the empty net. Eboue also had a hand in the fifth goal for Arsenal, it was his driving run into Porto’s penalty box which earned us a penalty after he was dragged back by Fucile.

On one hand, I don’t think the final scoreline flatters to deceive. Porto are not a very good side and refereeing error or not, we should not have lost the first leg. This is even more evident that other than some direct shots at Almunia, which he easily gathered, there are no threats which he needed to deal with. Maybe that’s one which Porto threatened; Nasri was at the right place at the right time and managed to clear the ball off the line from a Porto corner.

What I saw was that Arsenal made things difficult for themselves. Sol Campbell just was not his usual self. His normal composed self was missing and made Falcao looked dangerous in the entire first half. The bundle of nerves made him missed numerous headers and misjudged several tackles which allowed Falcao to get through. Thankfully, the Porto striker is not as lethal as Drogba or even Rooney. But credit will be given where it’s due.

Campbell returned in the second half a totally different player. He put himself about and his reading of the game improved. If Porto had few oppourtunities in the first half, in the second they had none. Even the first 10 minutes where Porto had more of the ball, together with Vermaelen, Campbell was a bed of rock in defence.

The focus returns to the league campaign this weekend, although Wenger has already been touted to not mind being drawn with either Chelsea or United in the next phase. I’m not too sure about that, I don’t mind not meeting the two at any stage of the competition. The draw will be an interesting one.

Till tomorrow.