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Arsenal ride their luck to spoil McClaren´s debut

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 13 Aug 2008

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Arsenal ruined Steve McClaren's FC Twente debut as goals from William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor secured an unconvincing 2-0 win in the Champions League third qualifying round, first leg on Wednesday.

McClaren rarely enjoyed much good fortune during his unhappy reign as England coach and the new Twente manager's luck clearly hasn't changed for the better yet.

His side out-played Arsenal for long periods at the Gelredome in Arnhem before succumbing to a sucker punch when Arsenal captain Gallas struck from close-range midway through the second half.

If that was tough on McClaren there was worse to come when Adebayor added a second in the closing minutes to leave Twente down and out and Arsenal within touching distance of the lucrative group stages.

Arsenal were below strength after a raft of injuries but, despite the result, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger can't have been too pleased with his team's first competitive display since the departures of Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb.

At least Arsenal have plenty of time to improve in the competition. Twente and McClaren's first taste of Champions League could be their last for quite a while.

McClaren was last seen sheltering forlornly under an umbrella on the Wembley touchline during the last rites of England's ill-fated attempt to qualify for Euro 2008.

Now installed as Twente coach, the “wally with the brolly” had a chance to rebuild his tattered reputation by inflicting an embarrassing defeat one of England's big four.

He would have taken heart from Arsenal's under-strength line-up. With Cesc Fabregas, Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri all injured, Wenger was forced to field an inexperienced team that included Denilson, 20, and Aaron Ramsey, 17, in central midfield.

Twente were competing in Europe's elite club competition for the first time but they showed no signs of being overawed.

They carved out the first half-chance when Roman Denneboom rose above Gael Clichy to head over in the fourth minute.

McClaren hasn't had time to make his own mark on Twente yet so perhaps it wasn't surprising that they passed the ball more smoothly than his England teams ever did.

Whereas Arsenal usually weave intricate patterns around their opponents, here it was the Dutch team who looked more dangerous for much of the first half.

Manuel Almunia was forced to race from his line to block Eljero Elia's run, then Denneboom shot wastefully over after surging past Clichy.

The best chance of the half fell to Marko Arnautovic. He beat Arsenal's confused offside trap and had only Almunia to beat but, let down by a poor first touch, his shot was too close to the keeper.

Wenger's side finally threatened just before half-time when Clichy's shot was spilled by Sander Boschker, but Bacary Sagna's wayward shot from inside the six-yard box summed up Arsenal's half.

There wasn't much more cohesion in Arsenal's play early in the second half, yet they managed to steal the lead in the 63rd minute.

Robin van Persie whipped in a free-kick from the right and Twente's defence stood statuesque as Gallas scrambled the ball home from close-range.

Suddenly Twente were labouring to rediscover their spark. They seemed to run out of ideas as the match wore on and Arsenal, while never close to their best, put the result beyond doubt in the 82nd minute.

Twente's defenders allowed a hopeful punt forward to reach Theo Walcott and he passed to Adebayor, who side-footed home to put Arsenal within touching distance of the group stage.

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