Brighton and Hove Albion (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 1
The AMEX Stadium, Village Way, Brighton BN1 9BL
Tuesday, 29th December 2020. Kick-off time: 6.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Pablo Marí, Kieran Tierney; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Dani Ceballos, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Rúnarsson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Cédric Soares, Nicolas Pépé, Shkodran Mustafi, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazatte (66 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 00%
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistant Referees: Gary Beswick, Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth Official: Michael Oliver
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Peter Bankes; AVAR Matthew Wilkes
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
So we can do it then. The Boxing Day battering of Chelsea at the Emirates proved beyond reasonable doubt that this group of players are more than capable of meeting challenges head on, and coming through them releatively unscathed. Not only did our remarkable and unexpected victory end our seven-match winless Premiership sequence, but it gave notice to everyone that we are capable of a cohesive, ruthless performance that can put the very best of them to the sword. Now all we have to do is keep it up. Let’s go!
The match started off fairly even, with both sides halting each others’ progress, but overall, we created the more opportunities to score in the first quarter of an hour or so. The game started to get rather ploddy, with players attemtping to capitalise on some half chances that never really had much of a chance of coming off. Just after the half hour, from a direct free-kick, Granit Xhaka’s left footed shot from outside the box went too high and into the empty stands. Bernd Leno made a superb double save from Alireza Jahanbakhs, which was by far the best chance the home side have had this match. With chances few and far between for both sides, it was an absolute relief when Martin Atkinson blew his whistle for the half-time break.
With no shots on target in the first half, we hope that at the start of the second half, our strikers find their shooting boots in earnest here at the AMEX stadium tonight. Less than a minute of the restart, Brighton claimed a penalty over a suspected foul by Rob Holding, but thankfully VAR cancelled the rather tenuous claim. Minutes later, we had out best attempt to score of the match so far, when Bukayo Saka fired over a cross from the left, to be met by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose shot from point-blank range was pushed aside by the goalkeeper. Then Gabriel Martinelli fired a superb shot over the bar from close range after some sterling work by Emile Smith-Rowe, cutting in from the left, and already, we have looked more lively in the first ten minutes of the second half than all of the previous one! The match started to quieten down and the pendulum swung back a little in the home team’s favour with their forwards showing desire to score. And so, with twenty-five minutes left of the game, Gabriel Martinelli made way for Alexandre Lacazatte; an inspired choice by Mikel Arteta, as literally seconds later, Bukayo Saka tore down the right wing, crossed a low ball, and who was there to tuck the ball away? Yep, you guessed it, our substitute, who announced his entry into the match in the most positive and grandest manner. Bukayo Saka nearly added a second goal five minutes later, when Kieran Tierney cut a ball back from the byline, but his shot was blocked by a couple of Brighton defenders. Dani Ceballos replaced an already injured Bukayo Saka, who hobbled off the pitch after eighty minutes, and following a rejig of the formation, we carried on regardless. We did have one or two lapses of concentration in the final few minutes of the match, but that was addressed by Ainsley Maitland-Niles replacing Emile Smith-Rowe to shore things up at the back somewhat. And it worked, so now we have back-to-back wins in the Premiership in December, and for that we all have to be truly grateful, my friends.
Whatever went on in the dressing room at half-time, it certainly worked! The first half was extremely lack lustre, but the second half was a totally different case in point. They played like a different team, and although it certainly was not pretty at times, we grabbed the three points, which is what counts at the end of the day. Happy New Year.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Saturday 2nd January 2021 at 8.00pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.