Vieira's penalty equals ultimate justice
Don't you love football!
Last October, as mentioned in my cup final preview, a £28million dive saw Arsenal cheated of a hard-earned record unbeaten run. The injustice of that dive interrupted the team's and fan's concentration for a good couple of months.
The footballing gods must have taken note because they presented Arsenal with a cup final against Man Utd to secure some justice for that dark October day.
Man Utd played the better. They sat deep, stifled the Arsenal midfield, and looked to play counter-attacking football by exploiting the pace of Rooney and Ronaldo.
Arsenal lacked penetration by unusually playing five across the midfield with the left-footed Reyes playing out on the right for the first time in an Arsenal shirt.
This system was used by AC Milan and Chelsea to defeat Man Utd. However, these tactics neutralised our supreme attacking potential- Reyes in particular suffered- and the players simply showed their lack of experience of playing a five man midfield system.
If Arsene is to use this system in future big games he must give the team a chance to get adapted to it first.
Despite the struggle for attacking flluidity, the defence played immaculately. Ronaldo and Rooney would trouble any full-back and on the whole Lauren and Cole dealt well with their massive threat. Man Utd never breached the young Toure/Senderos partnership and Jens Lehmann showed again why the criticism he receives in undeserved.
Jens Lehmann's first 47 league games for Arsenal resulted in no losses. His belief in his ability is a great quality to have for a goalkeeper, and- despite some notable mistakes which every keeper is prone to make- he has shown time and again throughout his Arsenal career that he is a value-for-money purchase.
His performance was the culmination of the last three months where Arsenal have kept clean sheet after clean sheet. The likes of Peter Schmeical who appear to take delight in condemning the qualities of Jens MUST think again and use reality as their starting point- not blind prejudice.
Back to the game- Man Utd threatened but in 120 minutes did not create a clear cut chance apart from two Ruud headers. Arsenal's consistent policy of always having two men on the line for corners paid off handsomely- Freddie's reactions were excellent.
So the cup came down to the luck of penalties- at the Man Utd end with Man Utd going off first.
Lauren set the tone with a beautiful penalty which involved total concentration on the movement of the keeper before striking the ball in his opposite direction. His passionate celebration in front of the Man Utd fans were enjoyed by this writer. Lauren never takes any nonsense!
Jens guessed right in saving Scholesy's pen, and then it was a question of Arsenal taking it a penalty at a time.
In the 1999-2000 season Arsenal were knocked out of the FA Cup, the League Cup, and the UEFA Cup final all by way of penalty shoot-outs. The demonstration of penalty mastery by Lauren, Freddie, VP, Ashley, and Pat showed that Arsene's team has worked on penalty-taking since that season.
To win on penalties after the unjust penalty scored against us last October showed that poetic justice is alive and well in football.
Man Utd fans will rightfully feel that the better team on the day did not win.
However, Arsenal won by the rules, unlike the Man Utd 'win' last October which some Man Utd fans [not Abdul, but others otherwise sensible people who will go unnamed] showed perverse delight in.
Arsenal did not employ a systematic strategy of kicking the oppostion with the referee's complicity; and they did not dive for a penalty and then applaud its conversion with no contrition at any time during and after the match.
Arsenal won the cup by the rules and ultimate justice was done.... football is great!
P.S. Stop the press, I have just read a quote from Dennis Bergkamp that sums up this article:
"There is no doubt United were the better side overall. But they say things even themselves out in time and we don't believe we had any luck in our two league games against them this season, so maybe that is why we had some good fortune this time."