If there is anything you can be sure of when it comes to an Arsenal Champions League fixture list is a long distance away fixture and this season the gunners were blessed with two of them as they face trips to Turkey and Ukraine.
A trip to Eastern Europe is standard stuff and the games have been notoriously bland, Arsenal often play far from top form but defending well enough that the opponent does not get much of a sniff either. These games are often low scoring and a draw is not unusual. The draw came this time but in fact the game was alot more lively than usual. Whilst there were frustrations, overall the game was quite spritely and there should have been more goals than there actually were.
Eboue's injury demoted him to the bench so Alexandre Song got the call up to take the DMF spot.
The teams lined up:
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Denilson, Song, Fabregas, Walcott, RVP, Van Persie
Kyiv: Bogush, Betao, Vukojevic, Aliev, Diakhate, Michalik, Nesmachney, Yussuf, Ninkovic, Bangoura, Yeremenko
The first decent chance came in the second minute after a neat one two between Walcott and Fabregas. After re-receiving the ball in the centre park Walcott played a delightful through ball which even Fabregas would be proud of, the ball sent RVP thorugh on goal for a 1 on 1 chance. However the chance was at an angle with the keeper in a good position and RVP had to take it on his right so a goal was by no means inevitable and sure enough the keeper blocked the shot by staying big. A good play and a good show of intent for the game ahead.
A defensive mistake gave Adebayor the chance to beast his way through the last defenders but his finish was wide of the mark, his confidence seemingly not 100% at that moment. It was a greater miss than it first looked as replays showed he was in a great position with most of the goal to aim at.
Arsenal passed and moved very well in the first half and reduced Kyiv to merely a specualtive long shot which was about as dangerous as Gianfraco Zola in a cheerful mood.
Another opportunity came for RVP from the angle after a one two between Walcott and Sagna led to Sagna whipping in a low cross for Van Persie to one time on goal. The finish curled around the side netting with venom and hit the wrong side of the back of the net. It was a good effort however and the replay showed that the ball boucing just before he struck probably messed up the effort a little.
Then came the chance of the match in which Fabregas missed an absolute sitter, if Arsenal can lament anything this match then i reckon not scoring this is it. A throughball through to Adebayor just outside the area with a crowd of players behind him was controlled and hustled for by Ade who dinked a nice cross to RVP who was running near the back post. A defender was closing in on Van Persies shooting angle so he unselfishly passed it to Fabregas who was clear in the middle just in front of the panalty spot with noone to challenge him. The shot was straight at the keeper however and despite being on his left foot really should have gone in. It was an agonising miss but nevertheless the football by Arsenal up until now was some of the best i have seen whilst on their cold, eastern Europe travels.
Kyiv took a bit more possesion from there but overall when the half time whistle went everyone watching the game knew that Arsenal were on top. They really should have had the lead by now and despite a draw being an amiable result the players will look back at this half and know they will have to finish better if they want to win the Champions League.
One point to make is the treatment of Theo Walcott in this game. Wenger was outraged at the amount of fouling on Theo and i noticed it too, like all quick players who up there game onto a higher level Theo is now paying the price for his new deadly reputation. It is unfortunate but an inevitability. His ability to just pick himself up and get on with it was great to see though, only once in the game did he lose his head and front up to the opposing player. It would be ideal if he never did that but he is only human and i am suprised with the amount of physical abuse he got that he didn't blow earlier. I have to give him close to top marks for how he handled it overall, he seems more mature every game we watch him in.
The second half began and Arsenal continued their mission to get a goal but it was Kyiv who showed their dangerous side early on. Some good hustle in midfield led to Bangoura being able to give the ball to Eremenko on the left hand side of the box. Some little dekes and some stepovers managed to steal some shooting room of of Gallas' tight defending and the shot crashed onto the post and thankfully rebounded near to Almunia who quickly smothered the ball. That was a serious warning for Arsenal that they may not get all the chances this half.
A midfield battle commenced for the next 15 or so minutes, Arsenal tried but couldn't get through. It was probably the dullest phase of the match but in the 64th minute the game came to life when Kyiv were awarded a penalty after Sagna was judged to have bundled down Vukejovic.
In reality it was a dive, there was clearly no force whatsoever from Sagna that could have possibly made Vukejovic fall like that, however Sagna did have his arms around him which is a serious risk for a defender and the attacker took the bait and fell down to make it look like he was forcefully dragged down. With his arms all over him Sagna can't really have any complaint about the referees perception although we know now that Vukejovic is anything but an honest player.
The penalty was cooly dispatched into the corner by Bangoura and Almunia made a pretty flimsy attempt at covering any side of the goal. The home fans celebrated whilst Wenger looked very agitated about what had just happened.
Wenger then took of Song (who played well, this sub didn't mean anything other than a tactical shift) for Bendtner, whilst Sagna and RVP both came off to in within the next 15 minutes for Eboue and Vela respectively.
Arsenal reacted with a new passion but the next danger moment came from Kyiv when Bangoura thundered a long shot over the bar. Arsenal then really clicked into gear and had mountains of possession stalking the outside of the Kyiv box as we have seen them do countless times but Kyiv threw many men behind the ball and made it as difficult as possible to get through.
A counter attack from Kyiv could have ruined the day as the attacker ran from midfiled and into the box but a great tackle from Toure stopped him in this tracks. The ball bounced back to Bangoura in the box however whose momentum meant he could beat Toure for postition and get a shot on goal. His angled shot was wide though and smashed the inside netting.
It really looked like Arsenal were going to lose this game until a brilliant passing move led to a dramatic equaliser. Toure and Gallas both stormed forward and after a one two Toure played the ball to Ade just outside the middle of the box and he clipped a lovely pass to Walcott on the right hand side who had enough time to pick a cross. Instead of going high he hit a low stinging cross int othe box which arrived between two attacker and two defenders at the far post. Gallas was first to react and placed it high into the net to give them the draw they deserved.
It is amazing how many important goals Gallas scores for Arsenal and this was yet another one. Say what you want about him but he does get us out of some tough spots.
It should also be noted that whilst Theo has had all the kudos for his finishing recently, in the last two games his passing has been spot on and it has showed with two assists in two games. His overall passing game has greatly improved, i imagine Fabregas is showing him a thing or two.
There were 3 injury minutes left to snatch a winner but no such joy and the game finished all square. It was a result many gooners would have taken at the start although with all the chances some may lament the lack of a win.
So a satisfactory result and one of the two long distance hauls got out of the way early. The pressure is on for the Gunners to win their home games but there was always going to be. Another mucky game against Bolton on saturday but best we get them out of the way early so we can kick on with the season.