FA Cup, 5th Round: Arsenal 2 – Chelsea 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
February 15th, 2004 • 5:19 am

Quite a game. Quite a goal. Once again, Arsenal live up to expectations and leave an indelible mark on this year’s competition. It was without doubt the worst possible draw for them. They had already faced Chelsea in the FA Cup in the past four years, and had beaten them every time. Chelsea were obviously thirsty for revenge — and they certainly looked up to it on paper, and also during the first half. As well, Arsenal were obviously weakened by the absence of Thierry Henry.

In truth, the first half was a pretty even affair. The Chelsea goal was nicely taken by Mutu, but it was caused by an obvious error by the Arsenal keeper, whose poor clearance barely made it to the half-way line and was immediately scooped up by Chelsea, while the Arsenal defence was simply caught off-guard. But on the whole, Arsenal did have the better chances in the half, with the crisp passes of Bergkamp and Pires and the wonderful complicity between Pires and Cole always threatening to open up the Chelsea defence.

Nonetheless, Chelsea were up 1-0 at half-time, and there was a big question mark about whether Arsenal would be able to reverse the situation in the absence of their top-class and play-maker striker. Reyes had had a few good moments in the first half, but nothing really threatening or out of the ordinary for an Arsenal side used to offering multiple flashes of brilliance in each and every one of their games.

And then it happened. Immediately in the beginning, with a forced change in the line-up due to Parlour’s injury, replaced by Edu, Arsenal were more threatening. Then Reyes found himself unchallenged at a distance of about 30 yards and decided to go for it. A couple of steps, a powerful shot with a wonderful curve flying all the way into the top corner — and Reyes became an instant Highbury hero. It was a typical Arsenal goal, worthy of Thierry Henry’s own top drawer. And it was a glowing confirmation of Arsène Wenger’s talent as a discoverer of new talent.

Arsenal were back level, and now obviously had the momentum required to take the lead. And take the lead they did. Within six minutes, Reyes had another goal, this time the result of a deadly, inch-perfect pass from Vieira.

This second goal in less than 10 minutes obviously killed the game. Chelsea were stunned, and never found the mental strength required to regain their composure and become threatening again.

It was quite a game for Arsenal, and quite a day for new striker Reyes. Naturally, he will have to confirm today’s performance on a regular basis. But it’s now obvious that the quality is here — and his partnership with Thierry Henry could soon prove very deadly indeed. This victory will give the whole team even more mental strength, and that could prove crucial in the next few weeks.

Now let’s just hope that they don’t draw Manchester United in the next round yet again…

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