Arsenal 2 Valencia 1
The stand was shaking.
The East Stand was shaking. In all my years and all my games and having seen all the great goals I’ve seen at Arsenal I have never experienced that stand shaking under my feet as it did after Ray Parlour fired that 27-yard thunderbolt in off the underside of the bar.
Two goals in 100 seconds got the fans off their feet and rocking the house.
I hope Ken Friar gets the inspectors in before the semi-final to check the foundations !
Did NOT agree with Wenger’s team selection. I was GOBSMACKED when told Lauren was dropped.
I’d say to Pires : give me 90 minutes in an hour, son. And to Freddie, you come on for Robert and give me an hour’s work in half an hour.
Arsenal started OK and the first half hour was tremendously exciting and ref Dick Jol let as much go as he could.
But Arsenal ran out of ideas after half an hour.Vieira had headed against the crossbar from two yards.
It was tense, it was knockout football,a Kily Gonzalez low cross deflected off Dixon behind Seaman but it just beat the far post.
Then a Mendiata cross, a loose ball, Ayala banged it in after 40 minutes.
Coach Hector Cuper had Valencia very well-organised at the back with Carew and Pellegrino marking Vieira at set-pieces.
Would this be Arsenal’s first Champions League defeat at Highbury ?
Wenger did what Eriksson did in Albania. Switched to 4-3-3 at half time and scored two goals. Wiltord crossed, Kanu miscontrolled, Pires backheeled, Henry buried.
This was not a typical Henry goal. It was a scrappy sort of goal compared to most that Arsenal score. It was a pressure goal and he got it because he was awake enough to read the backheel from Pires, which was a very good backheel in that it was hard enough to reach Henry but gentle enough for him to spin and smack the ball without having to run after it.
Then Parlour spurted forward and slammed his Exocet past Canizares.
Vieira was volcanic in the second half and when he released Henry it looked all over as he rounded the keeper, but he had to slow down and the tackle came in.
Lauren came on for ten minutes and the whole team suddenly looked better. More solid, more composed, better shaped, more assured.
This was Wenger’s biggest Champions League win and Parlour’s most important goal ever for the club. His best goal as well, even better than the one against Sparta Prague.
It was a quantum leap forward for Arsenal because quarter finals and semi-finals are not about skill and tactics but about energy and bottle and 100% commitment.
Arsenal played high-energy risk football, pressurising fiercely in the second half- and it worked. It’s their best way of playing. They cannot play cagey football like Bayern.