Saturday 24 February 2018

Clinical Eduardo comes back to haunt Gunners with decisive strike

Shakhtar D 2
Arsenal 1

Theo Walcott celebrates scoring the opening goal with Jack Wilshere. Photo: Getty Images
Theo Walcott celebrates scoring the opening goal with Jack Wilshere. Photo: Getty Images

Jeremy Wilson

Arsene Wenger had opined, before this match, that Eduardo's recovery from his horrific injury needed to be psychological as well as physical, but he still would not have wanted Arsenal to provide such effective therapy.

After scoring a popular consolation against his former club at the Emirates, Eduardo pounced last night with rather more significance to clinch Shakhtar's 2-1 win and also inflict Arsenal's first defeat of this Champions League campaign.

Arsenal and Shakhtar both remain dominantly positioned at the top of Group H, but the result does mean that goal difference is now likely to decide who progresses to the slightly easier task of facing one of the eight runners-up in the last 16.

Even in defeat, there were positives for Arsenal. It is November and he has already missed much of the season, but Theo Walcott's well-taken goal means that he has already equalled his best goalscoring tally of seven for a season.

Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Andrei Arshavin had all remained in London due to various ailments of a relatively minor nature, while Marouane Chamakh and Bacary Sagna were also rested as seven changes were made from the team which defeated West Ham on Saturday.

It all meant a central midfield of considerable inexperience, with teenagers Craig Eastmond and Jack Wilshere lining up to form a shield in front of the Arsenal defence.

With Eduardo starting just behind Adriano, Shakhtar were set up in a far more aggressive formation than when they were beaten 5-1 at the Emirates last month.

The match duly settled into a pattern whereby Arsenal were forced to soak up considerable pressure, yet still always looked dangerous on the counter-attack.

Shakhtar made the suicidal mistake of pushing their defence into the Arsenal half while Walcott lurked on the edge of the halfway line.

Wilshere then just had the relatively simple task of guiding the ball behind the Shakhtar defence to set up a 30-yard test of pace from which there would only be one winner. Walcott galloped clear and calmly sidefooted his finish beyond Shakhtar goalkeeper Andrei Pyatov.

Willian and Dmytro Chygrynskiy both forced saves from Lukasz Fabianski before Jadson was denied in extraordinary circumstances. First his shot completely wrong-footed Fabianski but was cleared off the line by Johan Djourou and then, moments later, he guided a header onto the bottom of the post.

There was an air of inevitability about the equaliser but, when it did eventually arrive, there was also a whiff of controversy.

Wilshere had been fouled by Tomas Hubschmann, but referee Massimo Busacca waved for Arsenal to play the advantage. They immediately lost possession and, with Wilshere still lying on the ground, Shakhtar broke into the Arsenal half.

Emmanuel Eboue then conceded a debatable free-kick for a sliding challenge on Jadson, from which Eastmond inadvertently headed into his own goal under pressure from Chygrynskiy.

Arsenal had a chance to again take the lead against the run of the play following an exchange of passes between Eastmond and Bendtner, but Walcott just hesitated long enough for Srna to intercept.

Srna then charged down the right from his full-back position to expose Gael Clichy before rolling an inviting cross into the Arsenal penalty area that Eduardo calmly guided beyond Fabianski.

Such was the local interest, Shakhtar could have sold more than 200,000 tickets for last night's match and the most vocal section of the home crowd gave a prolonged sight of their chests despite the sub-zero temperature.

The game also began to lose some of its heat as Shakhtar gradually began to show signs of tiredness following their intense initial effort.

Wilshere dispossessed Willian in a dangerous position, but sprayed his shot wide. Sebastien Squillaci then headed wastefully into the arms of Pyatov from an unmarked position on the edge of the Shakhtar penalty area.

Walcott, who was increasingly drifting into a more central position, also had no fewer than four second-half attempts saved as Arsenal ultimately ran out of ideas. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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