Friday, February 12, 2010

Editor's Report: Arsenal vs. Liverpool

I made the quick stroll from Alec and Simona’s flat on Liverpool Road to Upper Street where I hopped on the 4 bus to Finsbury Park. The plan was to meet up with Nick and his crew for some pints at the 12 Pins before strolling over to the Emirates. I was a bit early, so I ducked into a kebab place and had a fantastic falafel with extra spicy chili garlic sauce. This was a good omen.

When I entered the 12 Pins it was filled was loads of Gooners, all enjoying themselves and meeting up with friends old and new. After a few minutes, Nick arrived accompanied by a jovial group of friends and we caught up and discussed the club’s recent fortunes.

Since I had taken the Emirates Stadium tour the day before with Charlie George (Nick’s hero), a great deal of our talk focused on the anecdotes and stories that Charlie threw about during the tour. Alec joined us a bit later for a pint and with kick-off set for 7:45, we left the pub at 7 and headed toward the ground. Amidst swirling snow flurries we passed Highbury, and with the magnificent Art Deco facade still in place, I was I was filled with nostalgia and got a wee bit weepy. Sniff. Sniff. I’ll have to buy one of the remaining flats so Pires can be my neighbor. But I digress.

Once at the Emirates we decided that Nick and I would sit in his season tickets for the first half and Alec would sit in the extra seat Nick had procured from a mate of his. It was great walking to Nick’s seats. He was greeted by knowing smiles from the stewards and handshakes and pats on the back from many in the section, which was above the goal in the North End.

The first half was dull. I can’t remember many chances from either side. It was frankly not terribly impressive fare on the pitch but I was still getting my bearings in the stadium and was just happy to be there. At the half we met up with Alec and we decided that he would join Nick and I would head down to the single seat. Alec prefers to be up high and I wanted to get closer to the action.

As you can see by the photos, closer I did get. And coincidentally, the quality of the match increased substantially. We began to assert ourselves and although Liverpool had their moments (a wonderful saving tackle by Gallas on Ngog prevented a clear scoring chance) the Arsenal was in the ascendency.

The goal came off a TommyGun cross and Diaby headed it into the Liverpool net. Carragher had been forced to leave the match due to injury earlier and Abu was able to find some space and exploit the English defender’s absence.

The celebration by the Arsenal squad indicated the type of pressure on them at the moment, as pure joy and relief manifested itself in a love fest to the left of Reina’s box. Despite what looked to be an obvious dive by Gerrard to win a free kick (I still have not seen any replay) we held on for a vital three points.

Wanker Gerrard confronted Howard Webb after the final whistle because his kick glanced off Cesc’s arm, but his whining was in vain. He left the field to chants of “Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!”

Alec and I said our thanks and goodbyes to Nick and returned to Liverpool Road, just in time to meet Simona for a pint before last call. It was a grand evening. -Sanford