2006-08-22

Arsenal only got a 1-1 draw in Premier League opener

It was not a good game for the Gunners. A late equaliser by Gilberto gave Arsenal a 1-1 draw with a surprising Aston Villa in the first ever game at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Olof Mellberg gave Villa the lead on 53 minutes, but incessant pressure and a first-team debut by Theo Walcott saw Gilberto level with four minutes remaining.

Since it was not a good result, Wenger blamed it on a lack of sharpness at the start of a new season, saying "the players were not completely ready physically, added to the fact that many of them played 90 minutes in midweek."

In fact, Arsenal kept the ball and created chances, but there was always a Villa player ready and willing to block anything Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and the impressive Emanuel Eboue threw at them.

When Thomas Sorensen was called into action early on he was similarly effective, saving well at the near post from Eboue - acting like a winger for much of the game - while a well-positioned J'Lloyd Samuel turned the ball off the line when Emanuel Adebayor had done everything right with his downward header into the bottom corner.

Villa had to be content hitting Arsenal on the break, which was threat enough with the pace and directness of Juan Pablo Angel and Luke Moore and Gabriel Agbonlahor supporting from the flanks.

It's important to say that Arsenal made all the chances though, slick one-touch play unfortunately unmatched by anything approaching top-class finishing. Adebayor only impressive in fits and starts with Henry drifting wide and deep for much of the encounter.

It actually took Villa's opener to spark Arsenal into life, Mellberg rising above Jens Lehmann to head home a corner on 53 minutes, one of their few clear-cut opportunities in this game.

Arsenal became truly threatening after the introduction of Theo Walcott for his first-team debut, the expected debut for the last 20 minutes and tearing holes into Aaron Hughes with his pace and touch.

His presence also allowed French star Henry to move inside, the usual support in width absent on account of Juan Antonio Reyes protracted on-off move to Real Madrid.

It's fair to mention that Walcott had a key role in the equaliser, turning Hughes inside and out before chipping a delicate cross to Robin van Persie, whose glancing header fell to Gilberto, the Brazilian lashing a half-volley into the roof of the net on 84 minutes.

Even though they kept on attacking, The Gunners were unable to find another goal and start the 2006/7 season and life at their new stadium without a victory.

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