Date:Saturday February 4 2006
Blues: Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Latka, Upson (Bruce 88), Gray, Pennant, Izzet (Campbell 70), Butt, Jarosik (Forssell 69), Sutton, Heskey.
Subs Not Used: Vaesen, Tebily.
Sent Off: Heskey (83).
Booked: Heskey, Sutton.
Gunners: Lehmann, Flamini, Senderos, Djourou, Larsson, Fabregas, Silva, Diaby, Reyes (Hleb 79), Henry, Adebayor.
Subs Not Used: Almunia, Pires, Bergkamp, Walcott.
Booked: Henry, Larsson, Diaby.
Goals: Adebayor 21, Henry 63.
Ref: M Riley (W Yorkshire).
Blues slipped to their first home defeat of 2006 as Arsenal became the first team to breach the Blues defences at home this year. Arsene Wenger has been subtly complaining that those nasty Northerners have roughed up his little boys for weeks. Mike Riley, the ref who started the complaints last season when he allowed Manchester United to kick lumps off them, was surely not going to allow it to happen again.
The game began with Blues overpowering the young Gunners back line. High balls and strong challenges resulted in pressure on their goal and they were grateful to Lehman who pulled of a majestic save to deny Jarosik left foot volley that looked net bound. The resulting corner found Blues aerial strength opening up a chance for Heskey but was unable to force the ball between defender and post fom two yards. As the pressure mounted Heskey, on the far post, headed into the side netting when he should have scored.
Captain Henry decidedly upset that his young companions were being so roughly treated and informed Mr Riley. Mr Riley cautioned Henry who gave Mr Riley some more complaints. Having now committed 2 yellow card offences Henry stood to attention mockingly as Riley, now without credibility, administered another stern warning. Technically you can’t be dismissed for three yellow cards! Mr Riley now under instruction it would seem,gave every contact in favour of Arsenal when the two cente halves we under any kind of pressure.
The first goal arrived on 21 minutes when Diaby, free on the right fired in a shot that would have been wide of the Tilton Road by some distance. Inexplicably Butt fired the ball goalwards, hit Taylor who prevented the goal, and the ball sat up for Adebayor to head home.
As Arsenal had won every game where the had led at half time and Blues had lost every time they were behind at the break them omens looked good. Mr Riley would have been better off knowing that.
Blues, with Nicky Butt so anonymous in midfield he may as well stayed in bed still managed to put the visitors under pressure. Blues continually were penalised and Sutton went into the notebook for persistent fouling when he was the victim of desperate Arsenal ‘defending’.
Blues went further behind when a quick outlet left Henry to run free. Upson was unable to get in a meaningful tackle and the French genius and barrack room lawyer let fly with a shot that parted Taylor’s locks. In truth it was poor goalkeeping but the shot was indeed so forceful that Taylor was unable to set himself properly.
If Steve Bruce was thinking of resting Heskey for Tuesday’s cup-tie then Mr Riley gave him some help. Heskey was carded firstly when trapping the ball dropping from the sky. The Arsenal defender also eyes on the ball got there a second late and crashed into Heskey. He committed the foul but the free kick and yellow card went to Heskey.
Twenty minutes later Heskey again under a high ball, leapt to head the ball with the five stone ringing wet Flamini stationary in his path. Not surprisingly the defender went down like a sack of King Edwards. Riley somehow found Heskey guilty of an offence and added a second yellow card. Heskey quite understandably went berserk and had to be “assisted” from the field. He then paid a visit to the Arsenal dugout obviously to exchange pleasantries. Steve Bruce was forced to send the dismayed striker down the tunnel.
Blues had been treated to their first glimpse of Dudley Campbell who with Forssell added some sharpness to Blues attack. These two also have the advantage of not being so physically strong that they concede a free kick whenever an opponent is within touching distance.
Nicky Butt completed the ninety minutes without really getting his kit dirty, which at least in some way relieves the financial burden that he is inflicting on the club. If he tried playing a little bit of football it may help too.
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