Sunday, August 17, 2008

Review : Gunners 1 - Baggies 0

A DEBUT goal for Samir Nasri proved enough to give Arsenal a 1-0 win over new boys West Brom on the opening day of the Barclays Premier League season at Emirates Stadium.The £12million Frenchman netted after only four minutes as the Gunners dominated the first half.However, it was a different story following the restart as last season's Coca-Cola Championship winners fought back and were unfortunate not to get something from the match.

Arsene Wenger - whose injury-hit squad had battled to victory in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier against FC Twente in Holland during the week - was in the end no doubt happy enough with the final result.But the Gunners boss knows it will take more than such average performances over the next nine months to secure a first league title since 2004.
As expected, Arsenal were soon on the offensive, and forced a succession of early corners.

It proved to be a dream start for Nasri. The ball was worked quickly through the right side of the penalty area to Denilson, who cut the back into the path of the French winger and he calmly guided his shot low into the far corner.

Arsenal were soon rampant again, as Emmanuel Adebayor chipped the ball over for Theo Walcott, whose goalbound close-range header was blocked by Baggies defender Paul Robinson.Gunners captain William Gallas was allowed space some 30 yards out - and his low, rasping drive was only just wide of Scott Carson's right-hand post.

West Brom were struggling to get a foothold in the game and Arsenal surged forwards again in the 18th minute.Right-back Bacary Sagna let fly with an angled drive, which deflected off Meite and almost into the far corner.Nicklas Bendtner headed wide from a near-post corner as the Gunners threatened to extend their lead once again.

There was finally some respite for the battered Baggies when they forced a corner in the 27th minute.However, the delivery was poor and eventually the ball went out harmlessly for a goal-kick.

Manuel Almunia was eventually called into action on the half hour when Ishmael Miller flicked on a long ball into the path of Do-Heon Kim.The Korean held off his marker and drilled in a low shot from the edge of the box, which the Arsenal keeper had to turn behind at full-stretch.

Johan Djourou then did well to get back ahead of Miller as the West Brom striker looked to sneak in behind the home defence.This was now the best spell for the newly-promoted Black Country club.However, the visitors were still unable to create another decent opening as the interval approached.

Adebayor sliced wide from an acute angle when the ball broke kindly to the big African in the left side of the penalty area.

On 50 minutes, there was a big let-off for Arsenal.First Miller's close-range effort was blocked by the legs of Almunia after he had sprung the offside trap, before Djourou cleared Robinson's follow-up shot from in front of his own net.

Arsenal could then have made it 2-0 moments later when Adebayor got clear into the left side of the area once more - and this time bent a low, curling effort just wide of the far post with the keeper beaten.After the Gunners had dominated the opening half, this was now a much more evenly contested match-up.

The Baggies continued to press and Arsenal sensed they needed the cushion of another goal.

Substitute Robin van Persie's far-post header from a cross by Adebayor was straight at Carson.The Dutch forward almost netted an acrobatic strike when he turned in the six-yard box to poke a left-foot effort just wide, but in the end 1-0 to the Arsenal proved enough for victory.

Baggies fans, meanwhile, could console themselves that, for today at least, they are only three points behind the leaders.

Line-Up :

Arsenal: Almunia - Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy - Walcott (Toure), Eboue, Denilson, Nasri - Adebayor, Bendtner (Van Persie)

West Brom: Carson - Hoefkens, Barnett, Meite, Robinson - Brunt (Beattie), Morrison, Greening, Kim, Cech (MacDonald) - Miller (Bednar)

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