Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Gallas saves Arsenal from more pain in the Ukraine

Arsenal avoided another dose of pain in the Ukraine as William Gallas snatched a late equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw against Dynamo Kiev in Wednesday's Group G opener.

Eastern Europe has been an inhospitable venue for Arsenal Wenger's side, who had lost on their previous three visits to the Ukraine, and they were staring defeat in the face again when Guinea striker Ismael Bangoura stroked home a second half penalty at the Valeri Lobanovsky Stadium.

But Gunners captain Gallas rescued the Premier League side with a close-range finish two minutes from full-time and they will return to London grateful for a point that their spluttering display barely deserved.

Arsenal never completely got to grips with a Dynamo side that had failed to take a single point from their six Champions League matches last season.

Much better will be needed if Wenger's side are to improve on last season's quarter-final exit.

Arsenal arrived in Kiev boosted by three successive victories, with 11 goals scored in the process. Wenger made just one change to the team that routed Blackburn on Saturday as Alexandre Song replaced the injured Emmanuel Eboue.

The Gunners manager opted to use Robin van Persie wide on the left rather than alongside Emmanuel Adebayor, yet the Dutch striker was quickly at the heart of the action.

Theo Walcott's astute pass slipped in van Persie and it took a smart save by Dynamo keeper Stanislav Bogush to deny him.

Adebayor should have put Arsenal ahead in the 19th minute when he pounced on careless Dynamo defending, but the Togo striker showed none of the poise that earned him a hat-trick at Blackburn as he curled his shot wide with only Bogush to beat.

Dynamo, runners-up in the Ukrainian league last season, had gone 13 Champions League matches without a win.

Yuri Semin's side showed no signs of an inferiority complex in the first half. They enjoyed several spells of good possession and kept Arsenal's defence on edge. But a clear sight of goal remainded elusive.

Arsenal finished the half on top again as van Persie blasted into the side-netting from Bacary Sagna's cross.

Cesc Fabregas had an even better chance when Adebayor fed van Persie and his cutback reached the Spain midfielder, who shot straight at Bogush from six yards.

Dynamo upped their tempo to dramatic effect after half-time. Roman Eremanko skipped past Gallas and smashed his shot against a post before Manuel Almunia smothered the loose ball.

It was an indication that Dynamo were capable of hurting Wenger's side. They failed to heed the warning and the hosts took the lead in the 64th minute.

When Bangoura curled in a cross from the right, Sagna bundled over Ognjen Vukojevic as he challenged the midfielder to concede a penalty.

It was slightly harsh on Sagna but Bangoura stepped up to calmly send Almunia the wrong way from the spot.

Dynamo were suddenly within touching distance of their first win in the competition for four years, when they beat Roma in Kiev.

As Arsenal pressed desperately for an equaliser, Bangoura nearly delivered the killer blow as he beat two defenders and fired a low shot just wide.

Wenger grew increasingly animated on the touchline as the minutes ebbed away. He was finally out of his seat to praise rather than scold in the 88th minute.

Walcott drove in a low cross that evaded the entire Dynamo defence and reached Gallas, who tapped-in at the far post.



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