Champions League – Arsenal through after penalty drama
Arsenal beat Roma after a penalty shoot-out decided their Champions League las-16 tie which ended 1-1 on aggregate at Stadio Olimpico.
The Italian side’s one-goal deficit was eroded by Juan’s ninth-minute header, before the game drifted to penalties, with the Gunners winning 7-6 – the highest-scoring shoot-out in Champions League history.
Arsene Wenger began with Eduardo confined to the bench, and Nicklas Bendtner leading the forward line along, but the visitors saw their 1-0 lead from the first leg at the Emirates wiped out startlingly early.
Roma defender Juan capitalised on some slack marking as both William Gallas and Kolo Toure allowed Francesco Totti’s cross to escape them, before the lanky defender slotted past Manuel Almunia from close range.
Rodrigo Taddei was feted by his team-mates in the celebrations for a deft dummy in the lead up to the goal which enabled Juan to find space beyond the diving Gael Clichy.
Gallas had a chance to atone for his error with a free header from close range 10 minutes later, but the angle was tight as the defender stole in at the back post, and Doni gathered relatively comfortably.
Taddei, who was a constant threat, then had two rasping efforts saved by Almunia after cutting in from the right wing, before a third shot was fired in by Mirko Vucinic as the Spanish keeper was kept occupied.
Samir Nasri, who had fleeting moments of inspiration on either wing, picked out Robin van Persie from out on the right, just before half-time, but the Dutchman’s header sailed innocuously over the bar after he was left unmarked in the penalty area.
On the stroke of the break, Roma had their clamorous appeals for a penalty rejected by referee Mejuto Gonzalez, as Marco Motta appeared to be clipped by Clichy inside the box: replays suggest that Arsenal could count themselves lucky.
Former Arsenal forward Julio Baptista was introduced in place of Juan, who sustained an injury, and the Brazilian almost doubled Roma’s lead on the night in the 81st minute when he slid to meet Motta’s cross, but failed to connect cleanly.
Bacary Sagna has a free header inside the box saved by Doni – another good chance for Arsenal which they should have converted.
Theo Walcott was introduced midway through the second half, and the pacey winger immediately proved a nuisance for John Arne Riise – who was already cursing the pace of Sagna down that flank – twisting the Norwegian inside out.
Then on the stroke of full-time, Toure had a point-blank chance to win the tie for Arsenal with a header from close range which drifted agonisingly wide of Doni’s near post after Van Persie had flicked the ball on from Nasri’s cross.
A superb one-two between Van Persie and Walcott in extra-time almost saw the Englishman get in behind the retreating Max Tonetto, but the Italian muscled him off the ball impressively.
With penalties looming, Arsenal squandered numerous promising positions, as their hosts dropped deeper and deeper into their own half, seemingly content to wait for the impending shoot-out, with Vincenzo Montella brought on for the occasion.
Eduardo was the first man to step up, but his tame effort was comfortably saved by Doni, but the Brazilian was reprieved by Vucinic’s miss, before Van Persie, Walcott, Nasri, Denilson, Toure, Sagna and Abou Diaby all then scored for the Gunners, leaving Tonetto to hand them victory.