ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger hailed his team’s resolve after the Gunners came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw against Villarreal in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at El Madrigal last night.
Emmanuel Adebayor scored a wonderful equaliser in the second half but the performance was overshadowed by the loss of centre-half William Gallas, most likely for the rest of the season, with a knee injury while goalkeeper Manuel Almunia also had to be replaced after aggravating an old ankle problem.
Togo striker Adebayor made it three in two games, and five in this European campaign, with a stunning scissor-kick after 66 minutes to cancel out an equally impressive opener from home captain Marcos Senna.
Wenger’s side rallied in the second half to secure what could prove to be a decisive result to defend at Emirates Stadium next Wednesday.
“It was a great goal, but it was a great game as well,” said Wenger.
“Both teams played well at a high tempo and in an offensive way.
“Villarreal started stronger than us and the early goal made it very difficult.
“In the second half, it was a great response and we took over.
“It puts us in a great position, but we want to qualify at home and to repeat the type of performance we did in the second half.
“I am confident, the quality we have shown added to the mental strength and desire we have shown.
“But we know Villarreal are a good team as well, so we will be on our toes and focused at Emirates.
“We have a little chance to recover some players who are out as well.
“But before that we have a big game at Wigan and we need not to lose other players.”
Wenger added: “This team has shown the whole season they are mentally very strong and when they have backs to the wall, these young players always find an answer.
“I believe we have created momentum. We are a very young team, but are capable to focus.
“We have shown with the consistency we have in the (English) championship that we are able to concentrate every three days and at that age, that is a big quality.”
Wenger praised Adebayor’s superb strike.
“It was unexpected,” he said.
“At the start his body was a bit in the wrong position to score, but he managed to turn that into an advantage for him.
“After we had many dangerous situations where we could have scored a second goal.”
Adebayor, meanwhile, admitted the execution of the goal had taken even him by surprise.
“I am really pleased with how I played – I don’t even know how I scored, but the most important thing is that the ball went in the back of the net,” the Togo international said.
“The most important thing is to play and do something good here and I think we have done that quite well.
“It was quite difficult for us because we played against a team that play good football, but we enjoyed it.
“Even though the second leg is going to be tough we are playing at home so we will do everything to go through.”
Arsenal, though, look set to go into the second leg without key defensive men Gallas and Almunia.
Wenger said: “With Gallas, it looks quite serious and could be medial knee ligament injury.
“We will have to asses it, and I am not a doctor, but the first signs do not look too good.
“Manuel is a recurrence of an ankle injury, which probably will be a couple of weeks.”
Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas had several objects thrown in his direction when taking a corner during the second half.
Wenger added: “I saw that there were coins or boxes thrown at him, but I have not spoken with him about it yet.
“Certainly UEFA will make an inquiry and make the right decisions.”
Villarreal boss Manuel Pellegrini felt his team had done enough to secure a win.
He said: “We played a very good game. In the second half it was more balanced, but the result in the end was unfair.
“We created four very clear chances in the first half and I do not think Arsenal created more chances than their goal during the 90 minutes.”
Pellegrini added: “The tie is 50/50.
“We know Arsenal will be at home in the next game but that is not necessarily an advantage.
“There is still the second game to play and we proved today that we have what it takes to go through.”
Subs for Villarreal: Fernandez for Cani (46), Franco for Ibagaza (79), Pires for Llorente (70).
Subs for Arsenal: Fabianski for Almunia (28), Djourou for Gallas (42), Eboue for Walcott (78).
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