Villarreal 1-1 Arsenal

By Jonathan Stevenson

Arsenal scorer Emmanuel Adebayor
Adebayor celebrates bagging a crucial away goal for Arsenal

Emmanuel Adebayor’s stunning overhead kick earned Arsenal a crucial draw in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Villarreal.

Adebayor chested down a Cesc Fabrgeas pass and acrobatically volleyed home to get the Gunners a crucial away goal.

Villarreal had dominated the first half and went in front when Marcos Senna fired in a screamer from 30 yards.

But Arsenal improved and Adebayor headed wide before the Togo striker conjured up his piece of magic.

It really was a game of two halves in Spain and after being outplayed before the break, Arsenal dominated to such an extent after it that they will consider themselves unlucky not to be taking a lead back to the Emirates next Wednesday.

After the Gunners impressive recent form and the return to fitness of several of his key players, the first half must have been a real sickener for Arsene Wenger.

Not only did he see his side fall behind, but the Frenchman also watched two of his most experienced campaigners limp off with injury.

Spanish goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was the first to go down, picking up an ankle problem inside five minutes after having to race from his line and clear with William Gallas hesitating.

He received treatment when play stopped and chose to carry on, but after saving on his line from Gonzalo Rodriguez, he could do little to prevent Villarreal taking the lead.

It was a goal of stunning simplicity yet extreme quality as Senna took a touch 30 yards out and, with no-one closing him down, fired a ferocious shot into the top left-hand corner of Almunia’s net.

Arsenal were being made to look second best as the Yellow Submarine knocked the ball around El Madrigal with consummate ease, Senna and Ariel Ibagaza in particular outstanding at rotating and retaining possession.

Almunia finally limped off to be replaced by Lukasz Fabianki and the Pole was immediately in the action, getting down brilliantly to save another Senna rocket and getting up equally quickly to block Joan Capedvila’s follow-up effort.

The last thing Arsenal could afford was to lose another player through injury, but as Alex Song tripped Giuseppe Rossi on the edge of the Arsenal box, Rossi collided into Gallas and he was forced to limp off too.

Wenger looked skywards in frustration, but whatever the master manager said at half-time paid dividends and injected new life into his team.

They pressed their hosts back and with the combative Fabregas in typically creative mood at the hub of every attack, the Gunners began to threaten with regularity.

They ripped Villarreal’s defence apart with one flowing move only for Samir Nasri to over-hit his pass to Theo Walcott, before Adebayor headed over a Walcott cross from the right.

They deserved their equaliser when it came, and it was an absolute screamer.

Fabregas clipped the ball into the area and Adebayor took it on his chest before hitting an outrageous overhead kick into the corner of Diego Lopez’s net.

Arsenal were well on top and Nasri lashed wide soon after before they were reminded of Senna’s threat, the midfielder hitting another splendid shot from 35 yards that whistled past the angle of post and crossbar.

There was to be no more scoring, but Arsenal will fancy their chances of reaching the semi-finals in eight days’ time.


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Arsenal’s Lukasz Fabianski on 7.00 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport’s Player Rater after the match has finished.

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