Arsenal top group but Wenger frets over injuries
The Gunners are facing a defensive crisis, with both Kieran Gibbs and Gael Clichy out crocked
Arsenal 2 Standard Liege 0. While their Premier League rivals Liverpool were going out of Europe, Arsenal serenely glided into the knock-out stage with an easy victory over Belgian champions Standard Liege. The only bad news for Arsene Wenger on a night when his team secure top spot in Group H was a pair of injuries to defenders William Gallas and Kieran Gibbs, and a head wound to Andrei Arshavin.
"Gibbs has a big hole in his leg," the Arsenal boss said afterwards. "It was a very bad challenge by the No 22 and it was not his first try, unfortunately. It doesn’t look good for Gibbs." The youngster could miss up to two months of football, and with fellow left back Gael Clichy also out for the Gunners, Wenger may be forced into the transfer markets in January. With Chelsea visiting on Sunday, the news that Gallas and Arshavin are recovering from their injuries will be especially welcome.
With Arsenal's 1-0 defeat to Sunderland at the weekend fresh in the minds of the players - and the fact that in the fixture in Belgium earlier this season Liege had led by 2-0 within the first five minutes - Wenger had demanded renewed excellence from his team, and Samir Nasri almost obliged within three minutes, his shot just trickling wide. A scramble in the box then saw Thomas Vermaelen, Carlos Vela, Arshavin and Gallas all denied by the Belgians' keeper Sinan Bolat.
The home side had a penalty shout when Eboue tumbled in the Liege box, but as replays later showed that it was a blatant dive the referee was to be lauded for not falling for it. Arsenal finally broke through after 35 minutes when Samir Nasri got on the end of Gibbs' pass to stroke the ball past the Liege keeper. The second goal followed in injury time, when a 35-yard shot from Denilson swerved this way and that in the air and left the hapless Bolat grasping at thin air.
With the game safe, the second half was a fairly non-existent affair, with neither side threatening to make much of their opportunities. A late red card for Liege's Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez came in the last five minutes after he clashed with Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, then the evening's entertainment was all over. ·
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