Disciplined Gunners close in on holy grail

Juventus 0 Arsenal 0 (Agg 0-2)

The Gunners gained a 2-0 advantage in north London last week, and although they soaked up plenty of pressure from the Serie A leaders, that always looked enough as the match wore on, especially after Juve had Pavel Nedved sent off late on at the Stadio delle Alpi.

Arsene Wenger’s side will now meet Spanish side Villarreal as their quest to lift the European Cup for the first time continues in earnest.

Juve knew an early goal would unsettle the visitors, and so it was no surprise to see the home side press from kick-off.

But after weathering a period of sustained pressure, Arsenal soon settled with captain Thierry Henry, once of Juventus, jeered every time he touched the ball.

Nedved was a clear danger to the English side, with most of Juve’s promising attacks coming through the busy Czech midfielder.

There was a warning for Arsenal in the 15th minute when the ball was only half cleared, and Zambrotta lashed a 20-yard effort just wide of Jens Lehmann’s right-hand post.

A clever one-two between Jose Antonio Reyes and Thierry Henry - who passed a fitness test to start - almost released the young Spaniard into a shooting chance, but he was covered well by the Juve defence.

On 19 minutes, Arsenal full-back Mathieu Flamini was shown a yellow card for pulling Adrian Mutu’s shirt as the former Chelsea man tried to get clear down the right.

A brilliant turn from Henry then left Zambrotta grasping at air, with Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon getting down well to stop the Arsenal captain’s low strike from just inside the box.

A knockdown from Zlatan Ibrahimovic was blasted high over the crossbar by advancing Juve full-back Giorgio Chiellini as the hosts pressed again on 23 minutes.

Both sides went through a spell of needlessly wasting possession.

Juve put the ball in the back of the net when Ibrahimovic tapped home following Nedved’s knockdown on 30 minutes - but the Czech midfielder was well offside and the referee’s assistant had flagged early.

As the first half drew to a close, Arsenal were enjoying some sustained pressure themselves.

Alexander Hleb delayed his pass before releasing Emmanuel Eboue away down the right.

The Ivory Coast international sped clear and on into the area. However, with team-mates better placed in the centre, he elected to cut back inside, and was crowded out by the fast-retreating Juve defence.

Reyes then needlessly picked up a caution for time-wasting at the resulting corner, which rules him out of the first leg of the semi-final.

In first-half stoppage time, Flamini clattered into Nedved, leading with his elbow - and was very fortunate not to be sent off by German referee Herbert Fandel.

Arsenal began the second half brightly, and Henry soon raced clear of the Juve defence.

However, the Frenchman over-hit his touch into the area, which allowed Buffon to come out and make a brave stop at the feet of the Gunners skipper.

Kolo Toure and Eboue, meanwhile, were both being kept busy as the Italians continued to press for a goal to ignite the tie as a contest.

And as the hour-mark passed, it was Juve who were in the ascendancy.

However, despite plenty of positive approach play, the home side lacked a decisive pass to open up the Gunners backline.

Uruguayan forward Marcelo Zalayeta was sent on for Mutu, before Arsenal then also made a tactical switch as Robert Pires replaced Reyes.

Juve almost snatched the lead on 64 minutes when Nedved’s low centre was just too far ahead of David Trezeguet, the French striker sliding into the six-yard box.

From the counter-attack, the ball broke to Fabregas on the right side of the area, but again Buffon stood up well to make a fine save.

Ibrahimovic’s deflected effort from the edge of the area was plucked out of the air by Lehmann, just when the ball looked like it might fly in off Gilberto.

Nedved was cautioned for clattering into Eboue on the near touchline, as the Italians’ unease grew.

Lehmann then produced a smart save to deny the Czech from Ibrahimovic’s knockdown, before Trezeguet failed to capitalise on a weak header back from Toure.

Nedved, though, then went through the back of Eboue - and the referee had little option but to show him a second yellow card.

Hleb flashed a late effort across the face of goal and Ljungberg twice dashed clear, but it mattered not as Arsenal booked their place in the last four.

JUVENTUS: Buffon, Zambrotta, Kovac, Cannavaro, Chiellini (Balzaretti 66), Mutu (Zalayeta 61), Emerson, Giannichedda, Nedved, Trezeguet, Ibrahimovic.

ARSENAL: Lehmann, Eboue, Toure, Senderos, Flamini, Hleb (Diaby 87), Ljungberg, Silva, Fabregas, Reyes (Pires 62), Henry.

Ref: Herbert Fandel (Germany).

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox