Champions League – Lacklustre Arsenal beat Twente


Arsenal have one foot in the Champions League group stages after beating Steve McClaren’s FC Twente 2-0 in Arnhem.

FOOTBALL 2008/09 Champions League FC Twente manager Steve McClaren meets Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger - 0

The former England manager’s first competitive match in his new post at the small Dutch side ended in defeat due to second half goals from William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Robin van Persie‘s 63rd-minute free kick was not dealt with by the Twente defence and Gallas got in front of his man to scuff a shot that rolled past goalkeeper Sander Boschker.

With less than 10 minutes remaining, Adebayor virtually sealed the tie when he knocked Theo Walcott‘s low cross under the keeper to double his side’s lead.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger was forced to hand 17-year-old Aaron Ramsey his debut in the centre of midfield alongside Denilson, and the former Cardiff player’s nerves were there for all to see as he frequently gave possession away in central areas in the first half.

For Twente, the last side the reach this stage via the controversial old play-off system used in the Dutch Eredivisie, this was their biggest European match since they ended the 1975 UEFA Cup final as runners-up.

The game held extra significance for McClaren, for whom facing such high quality – not to mention English – opposition so soon into his new job had the potential to deliver some form of personal redemption or to merely increase his humiliation in the eyes of his compatriots.

The Dutch side started brightly as the pace of wingers Eljero Elia and Romano Denneboom caused the Arsenal defence – which featured Johan Djourou alongside captain William Gallas at centre-back – plenty of problems.

Denneboom in particular created opportunities for himself, getting the better of Denilson and Gael Clichy before blasting a shot wide of Manuel Almunia‘s goal.

With 10 minutes of the half remaining striker Marko Arnautovic had an excellent chance to score as Denneboom slipped him through to beat the offside trap and face Almunia one-on-one, but the Austrian’s first touch was bad as he stumbled and he failed to get his shot off.

Arsenal were unable to carve out any real chances in the opening period, with Adebayor’s contribution minimal and Van Persie’s set piece deliveries uncharacteristically poor.

The second half saw Arsenal emerge with slightly more purpose than the first but, the goals aside, they did not trouble the goalkeeper.

The return leg is at the Emirates Stadium on August 27.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport