EPL, Day 30: Arsenal 1 – Manchester United 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
March 28th, 2004 • 3:29 am

It was destined to be one of the highlights of the season, and didn’t quite live up to that billing, in part due to a lackluster first-half that was very short on flamboyance. Refereeing issues took centre-stage yet again, with several valid claims for penalties being denied on both sides. Fortunately, however, things never really boiled over as they did in the corresponding fixture last fall. It was even somewhat amusing to see Wenger and Ferguson arguing, at some point, over yet another dubious piece of theatrics by Ruud van Nistelrooy. You don’t see those two talk to each other so often!

The second half was more exciting, but ultimately disappointing for Arsenal fans. Thierry Henry scored yet another wonder goal with a superb strike from almost 30 meters out. And then it looked like the Gunners had everything under control and were going to protect that lead, even bringing on two much more defensive-minded players (Gilberto and Cygan) in place of Ljunberg and Pires. Yet somehow Manchester found an opening, with Ruud van Nistelrooy missing an easy tap-in but Saha behind him making no mistake.

This made for a very jittery last 10 minutes, especially with Ruud heading yet another very clear chance directly at the Arsenal keeper. But then, at the other end of the pitch Arsenal also had a couple of very clear chances in the last few minutes.

On the whole, the neutral spectator would probably say that it was a fair result. But there is no denying that the Gunners were disappointed and even angry at themselves, as could be clearly seen on Thierry Henry’s face in the last couple of minutes. They had a very strong chance of making it 10 league wins on the trot and putting a huge 15-point gap between them and their rivals (and maintain the 9-point gap between them and Chelsea).

Ultimately, however, it was still a historic day for Arsenal, because they still managed to extend their unbeaten run to 30 games since the beginning of the season and establish a new record in the process. Presumably the disappointment of not securing the win today and the resulting frustration and anger will spur them on. They are still very much the favourites to win the league, and can still achieve something special in both the Champions’ League and the FA Cup. Who will have the psychological edge next Saturday in the same fixture in the FA Cup? It’s hard to say… But there will definitely be more at stake for both sides than in today’s game, which might prove to be fairly irrelevant in the big scheme of things.

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