From Russia With Luck

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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"From Russia With Luck" It was a case of: "˜From Russia With Luck' as Arsenal qualified for the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time in their history.

Instead of elation on the faces of the Arsenal contingent, it was a look of a last minute reprieve by a "˜get out of jail' card from Moscow.

Bayern Munich outclassed Arsenal for much of the game; they made them look like a group of lightweights "" as if they had turned up at the wrong ground. Fortunately for Arsenal, in the depths of Moscow, Lyons could not overwhelm the Spartak defence. Consequently Arsenal qualified because of their away win against Lyons earlier in the tournament.

The scene was set for much hyped game; the ostentatious 58,000 capacity Olympic stadium in Munich rising to the occasion, with names such as Franz Beckenbauer, and singer Robbie Williams awaiting for the battle to commence.

The game seemed to be in the balance, and had the credentials for a superb game, however this degenerated into an anti-climax.

Arsenal lacked all the creative aptitude, which the Arsenal faithful are all so accustomed to. And as the final whistle blew, trepidation arose among the Arsenal team and travelling supporters, as their destiny now could not be controlled by themselves but had reverted into the hands of Spartak Moscow.

Arséne Wenger, the Arsenal manager, paced the touchline on the final whistle like an expectant father, ready to take himself and his second family into the unknown. After a three-minute wait the result he was waiting, hoping, anticipating for arrived: Spartak Moscow 1-1 Lyons. Wenger said that the experience of relying on a result from the other side of Europe was "like the 90 minutes all over again." Wenger strongly upheld that he wasn't going to pay attention to the score in Moscow, because they were in control of their own fate, but never has ignorance been so blissful in light of defeat.

By finishing behind Bayern in group C, it guarantees Arsenal a trip to Spain facing Real Madrid, Deportiva La Coruna or Valencia. In doing so it also ensures that the other English teams (Manchester United & Leeds) will not face each other as they all finished as runners up as well. Three English teams in the last eight goes to show how the English game is bridging the gap between the rest of Europe.

Victory was the ultimate goal in the game; this would prove to rest of Europe that they deserved their place amongst the elite. It seemed as if it was all going to plan from as soon as the fourth minute, when news filtered through that Spartak had converted a penalty.

However, 9 minutes later they fell behind with a deserved goal to merit Bayern's dominance over Arsenal up until that point.

The goal itself was worked meticulously, against the surprisingly flat-footed back four. It started from the ever-elusive Mehmet Scholl who played the ball to the middle of the Arsenal half to Fink. Where he swung the ball with the outside of his right boot to the left wing where the French International Bixente Lizarazu took the ball down. With an excellent first touch with the inside of his left foot five yards outside of the eighteen-yard box. He then did what he does best normally in a French shirt as he whipped the ball across the Arsenal six-yard box. And behold: in came the flying head of the Brazilian Giovane Elber directing the ball into the left of the goal, leaving Seaman stranded and Grimandi ball watching. Left wrong footed Seaman who was under the scrutiny of England manager Sven-Goran Erriksson could do little to stop a header from such close range. Appeals from the Arsenal skipper, Tony Adams went ignored, due to Giles Grimandi, following Elber into his six-yard box, confirming the insufficiency of the understanding between the two full backs. It was plain to see that the Arsenal defence was lacking in the presence of the dependable Martin Keown, who would have given them the extra sternness.

As the game aggressed Giles Grimandi so nearly scored one of the most embarrassing goals in Champions League history: the ball played by Jancker was harmless enough when it was played from the right of the Arsenal goal. The ball bobbled along the six-yard box and required a clearance with Grimand's left foot because of the angle it was played at, but instead it ricocheted from his right shin to Seaman's left. It was just lucky for him that Seaman was up to the challenge of an awkward dive.

Arsenal looked out of sorts in the first half; their performance was disjointed; they lacked cohesion in the midfield where in recent times Dennis Bergkamp occupied. The game and indeed Arsenal required the creative imagination that Bergkamp would provide in copious amounts. The perils of Robert Pires down the left flank was non-existent, apart from a weak flaccid shot straight at the keeper.

Patrick Vieira and the left back Ashley Cole were the only player's playing to their potential, dictating play whenever possible.

In the second half Arsenal did improve, but that is only because they could not get any worse. They managed to string more passes together, and Thierry Henry managed to get into the game with his first few threatening shots of the game.

If anyone was to score again, it was going to be Bayern, when Scholl manoeuvred his way past the spectator-like creature of Grimandi down the left, it seemed certain that Bayern would double their lead, but Jancker missed the cross completely and Jens Jeremies shot wide from 12 yards.

Each of Wenger's substitutes added a little more bite, but unfortunately, they looked like novices compared to their German counterparts. The infamous comeback of Manchester United of 1998 looked as likely as Grimandi making a valuable contribution to the game. It was just lucky for Arsenal that their previous performances vindicated the right for a place in the final eight and Spartak held tight for a 1-1 draw against Lyons.

After the game the Arsenal manager admitted that they: "had no spark"¦" it's just lucky for Arsenal that "˜Spark-attacked' Lyons! No matter how lucky they were on Wednesday night ultimately they may have lost the battle, but they definitely won the war, as they fly the British flag along with Manchester United and Leeds on through Europe.