Ajax foil Gunners bid to clean-up

Arsenal 0 Ajax 0

The hard work had already been done with five straight wins - their best start in the competition - so last night’s encounter was always going to be a low-key affair.

Manager Arsene Wenger used the match to give several of his fringe and young players a taste of Champions League action, but they still created enough chances to win, with Quincy Owusu-Abeyie not enjoying the best of nights in front of goal.

Afterwards Wenger said: “I am happy with the teamwork, especially defensively. We closed down, we pressurised the ball well, in the final third I feel we lacked a little bit of experience in our final ball to make the difference. We were in some interesting situations but we gave the ball too late, or we didn’t give the ball at the right moment, or we didn’t give the ball at all, and in the end that cost us the victory. But overall I feel it was interesting to see some young players, and many of them did well.”

“We can now focus on the Premiership, we’ve got a big game on Saturday against Newcastle, and the week after in the draw we’ll see what we can get. Now in the last sixteen in Europe, it becomes a serious job now.”

Speaking about Henry’s penalty miss, the Arsenal boss said: “He always loves to score and he certainly wasn’t happy to miss anything. When you’re a competitor and a winner you are never happy to miss something. Tonight we were not punished too much by it.”

It was not until the ninth minute when the first real chance of the match was created, as Gunners keeper Manuel Almunia collected a low cross bravely at his near post following an Ajax corner on the right.

Quincy should have scored following a Reyes corner, but the young Dutch striker - once on the books of Ajax - missed his kick as the ball bobbled six-yards out and Hedwiges Maduro hooked away the danger.

In first-half stoppage time, Reyes was tripped by Ajax skipper Tomas Galasek on the right edge of the penalty area, leaving the referee with little option but to point to the spot.

For once, though, Henry, failed to keep his cool - sending the keeper the wrong way, but also steering the ball wide of the right-hand post.

The visitors settled quickly following the restart - and felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Rosenberg went tumbling under Almunia’s sliding tackle.

A throw-in, though, was all the referee was prepared to award.

Following a good spell for the visitors, Wesley Sneijder then released Steven Pienaar ahead of the Arsenal offside trap, and into the area.

It needed a brave block from Almunia to keep the home side from going behind.

Alexander Hleb - returning after a knee injury - was then replaced by Cesc Fabregas, before Wenger brought on the in-form Robin van Persie for Jose Reyes.

With eight minutes left, van Persie weaved his way into the right side of the penalty area and held off the attentions of two defenders before drilling in a low, angled effort at the near post, which the Ajax keeper did well to block from point-blank range.

Rosenberg then blasted a shot over after it had been cut back inadvertently by Senderos, which proved to be the last meaningful action of the match.

ARSENAL: Almunia, Eboue, Senderos, Toure, Lauren (Gilbert 73), Hleb (Fabregas 62), Larsson, Flamini, Reyes (Van Persie 65), Owusu-Abeyie, Henry.

AJAX: Stekelenburg, Heitinga, Grygera (Trabelsi 14), Vermaelen, Juanfran, Maduro (De Jong 29), Galasek, Sneijder, Pienaar, Rosenberg, Boukhari (Babel 80).

Referee: E I Gonzalez (Spain).

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