Back in the league, we were up against second placed Chelsea, in what should
be a clash of the titans. But previous matches had shown that Chelsea isn't
on the same level as we were anymore. This match was no exception as we
raced to a 1-0 lead when Saviola scored in the 32nd minute. The second half
saw us piling on more pressure and their defence finally succumbed to a
brace from Greening on the hour. Noble added another 2 more goals with 10
minutes to go giving us a 5-0 lead. But Chelsea proved us wrong when they
managed to claw 2 goals back via Henrik Larsson and Francis Jeffers. In
the end, we came out as 5-2 winners, widening the gap further.
Arsenal Youth proved their worth when they took on Rochdale in the League
Cup Semi Finals. Adam Fleming scored his first goals for the club by drawing
first blood in the 44th minute. He added another in the 69th minute, sandwiching
Barrett's goal in the 52nd minute. That gave us a comfortable 3-0 lead with
3 away goals. The second leg was a much drawn out affair as Rochdale kept
us at bay. Fortunately they failed to find the net and when Barrett scored
in the 70th minute, they were already out of the Final. But their persistence
soon paid off when they equalised through Hugh McAuley. Arsenal qualified
for the League Cup Final against Huddersfield after a 4-1 aggregate win
over Rochdale. The 5th Round FA Cup draw saw us taking on Wolverhampton
Wanderers. They were no match for us even though I sent a second string
side against them. Goals from Greening and Barrett ensured our passage to
the next round after Wolves finished with just 10 men. Swindon was our next
opponent in the FA Cup Quarter Final match. We were wary of Swindon as they
have ex-Gunner Notman in their team. He would provide the necessary information
of our game-play to them. Nevertheless, the worries soon turned out to be
uncalled for as Marcus Benson scored a hat-trick and Peter Smith scored
his first career goal to give us a comprehensive 4-0 win.
The thriller of the season would be our next match against current runners-up
Southampton at Ashburton Grove. We had a 27-point gap advantage and a defeat
here for Southampton would ruin their slim hopes of catching up with us.
A win for us however would probably give us the title if things go accordingly
in the other matches.
Only 62,000 fans turned up for the match, which was also televised live
over the TV channels. Both teams began strongly and for the first 20 minutes,
neither side managed to get a hold over the other. Southampton drew first
blood when James Beattie scored in the 23rd minute. We struck back after
2 minutes, Weston floated in a cross which was well controlled by John Spicer.
He shoots. GOAL! Arsenal finally took the lead in the 43rd minute via a
penalty converted by Henry. The second half continued in the same vein that
the first had ended. In the 56th minute, Yossi Benayoun managed to latch
onto a through ball that put him one-on-one against Allaway. GOAL! 2 minutes
later, Chris Morgan scored from a set-piece corner. We were 3-2 down at
home. But Pablo Aimar had other plans. In the 61st minute, he did well by
dribbling into the area before hitting the ball with his left foot. GOAL!
The equaliser! We had more reasons to cheer when he scored again 10 minutes
later through the same fashion. It seems like the Southampton defenders
backed away from him, allowing him the space to score. In the dying seconds,
Southampton threw everything at attack. Darren Eadie got onto a loose ball
before flicking the ball towards Robert Kemp. Kemp dived at the ball. GOAL!
Southampton had equalised! 4-4 the final score. Our celebrations were postponed
for a few more matches.[ScreenShot]
The Champions League saw us taking on Inter Milan. The Italian side had
Alex Manninger and Paolo Vernazza with them which was a disadvantage for
us. But lady luck was on our side. Our first encounter was away at the Giuseppe
Meazza Stadium in Milan. Arsenal played incredibly well and had full control
of the match. And the first half ended with goals from Noble and Cassano.
The second half was no different as Saviola scored from a penalty before
Cassano doubled his tally in the 68th minute. We were leading 4-0. It was
frantic stuff right before injury time as newly signed Martin Palermo scored
for Inter in the 89th minute. But Saviola restored our 4-goal advantage
in the 90th minute. We won 5-1 against Inter Milan.[ScreenShot]
Our home match against Inter Milan was an even affair but our Italian pairing
upfront had other ideas on their own. Cassano scored a brace while Calaio
added a third to give us a 3-1 win over Inter Milan. Spartak Moscow was
next but they soon fell by the wayside after a 4-1 drubbing. Bayern Munich
cut short their visit to London when they were sent packing at the back
of a 2-0 defeat with goals from Henry and Joe Cole. Quarterfinalists of
the Champions League included 3 Italian teams, 2 English and Dutch sides
plus a single Spanish team. They are Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus, Ajax
Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, Southampton and Barcelona. We were thrown into
the deep end against Juventus, who had Ljungberg in their team.