Arsenal advance 0-1 on aggregate.
Lehmann saves Riquelme's last minute penalty
After year after year after year of playing all out attacking football and playing themselves right out of the Champions League by conceding goals, Arsene decided to channel George Graham: sit back, defend his lead, absorb Villarreal pressure, and maybe try to sneak one in counterattack - the defensive, Italian, catennacio style that goes against everything he truly believes in. But after all these years he is in the results business in Europe, and although quite ugly tonight it got him to his & the clubs first Champions League Final.
I figured after halftime his attitude was "my defense has not conceded a goal in the Champions League for 9.5 matches. I will defend this lead, and worst case scenario is they score to level the game. Then I'll put on Van Persie, switch to a 4-4-2, and try to win it from there." Villarreal created 3 really good chances and managed to miss them all, and the whole match it seemed that Arsene's strategy was going to bite him in the ass. And in the last minute of the match it did as Villarreal was awarded a penalty when Clichy fouled Mari, Mari dived, or both. Anyhow, Mats Wilander guessed correctly, saved Riquelme's penalty shot, immediately entered Arsenal iconic legend status, and 3 minutes later Arsenal were headed to Paris.
"Yellow Submarine: Hit and Sunk."
Call Wenger's strategy what you like: ballsy, risky, stupid, smart, hypocritical, mature, whatever... it worked. The 'makeshift' defense costing a total of 2 million pounds has gone 10 games in a row in the Champions League without conceding a goal - a new record for any European competition.
ARSENAL ARE IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL.
On y va a Paris!
Now I am a bit torn for tomorrow. Of course I want Barcelona to win because they are my 2nd favorite team, and like most others I want to see the Joga Bonito Final, but Milan would be a much easier opponent for Arsenal. Arsenal would run circles around Milan's old men, like Barca did last week and like Barca will do tomorrow. Either way works for me.
ARSENAL ARE 90 MINUTES FROM BEING EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS.
Stade de France. 17 May 2006.