Champions League playoffs: Arsenal qualify for main draw with win over Udinese
Arseen Wenger got some respite Wednesday when Arsenal scraped through to the main draw of the Champions League with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Udinese. They had earlier beaten Udinese 1-0 at home to go through on a 3-1 aggregate.
However, at one stage, it looked like the Udinese side would be posing a grave challenge to Wenger’s boys after the home team had a penalty awarded to them to go 2-1 up. Wojciech Szczesny not only saved the goal but also the day for the Gunners before they scored one on their own to put the tie beyond their opposition. This was in the 59th minute when Szczesny jumped to his right to thwart the penalty after a handball by Thomas Vermaelen had resulted in the referee pointing to the spot.
Earlier, Antonio Di Natale had opened the scoring for Udinese at the Stadio Friuli in the 39th minute to take the home side 1-0 up. Having lost the first game 0-1, this Udinese goal brought the tie to level pegging.
It was Van Persie who brought the side back at level pegging which meant that Udinese needed to win by a two-goal margin to go through to the next round on the away-goal rule.
Udinese did try and break the Arsenal defence on some occasions but the morale dampened after the missed penalty and the home team fizzled out when Theo Walcott added a second goal for Arsenal. Walcott had earlier scored for Arsenal in the first leg of the game in the fourth minute to take them home.
That missed penalty proved to be a costly mistake, because had the home team made it 2-1, the complexion of the game would have been quite different from what it was. Fortunately for the Gunners, the saved penalty has not only helped the side go through to the Champions League main round, but also ensured that Wenger would have some breathing space going into his side’s EPL games. Earlier, calls of his sacking were gathering momentum after Arsenal drew their opening EPL game and then lost 0-2 to Liverpool.
The game came only a day after it was confirmed that Samir Nasri had indeed been signed up Manchester City and that would have finally ended the saga that seemed to have besieged the fans for much time.
The main round of Champions League will begin from September 13, with the league matches to be held on 27–28 September, 18–19 October, 1–2 November, 22–23 November, and 6–7 December 2011.
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