Brighton and Hove Albion (0) 2 Arsenal (2) 4
American Express Community Stadium, Village Way, Brighton BN1 9BL
Saturday, 31st December 2022. Kick-off time: 5.30pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Rob Holding, Cédric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Fabio Vieira, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny, (Marcus Vinicius Oliveira Alencar) Marquinhos, Matt Turner.
Scorers: Bukayo Saka (1 min), Martin Ødegaard (38 mins), Eddie Nketiah (47 mins), Gabriel Martinelli (70 mins)
Yellow Cards: Gabriel, Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 32%
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistant Referees: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth Official: Jarred Gillett
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Paul Tierney; AVAR Constantine Hatzidakis
Firstly, a Happy New Year to everyone, and let us hope that 2023 sees the boys continue their most satisfying upward trajectory across all competitions. As is the case with every match, three points today is imperative, of course, which really goes without saying. This afternoon’s game at the Amex Stadium sees a welcome return to the substitute’s bench for Takehiro Tomiyasu, who returns after his painful hamstring issue, and it is also great to see Eddie Nketiah continuing to keep his place at centre-forward whilst Gabriel Jesus is still recovering from injury.
After a moving tribute to Pelé, one of the greatest footballers of all time, who sadly passed away on 29th December, we kicked off proceedings here at the Amex Stadium on a chilly New Year’s Eve. Within a minute of the start, our first attack brought the opening goal of the game! We grabbed the lead as Gabriel Martinelli’s shot was deflected to Bukayo Saka at the far post and he simply volleyed the ball into the back of the net, for his sixth Premier League goal of the season. We nearly made it two shortly afterwards, as Oleksandr Zinchenko turned superbly inside the penalty area to bear down on goal but his shot was charged down by goalkeeper Robert Sànchez. We kept the pressure up, with Eddie Nketiah being desperately unlucky not to score, and it is also good to see Thomas Partey directing traffic in the midfield so early in the match as well. The game started to settle down, with both sets of players testing each other’s defences, with some near misses at both ends. After a couple of corners from the home side, we bounced back and had some great chances to score, but our chances went wide of the goal. On the twentieth minute, we produced a move that richly deserved a goal as Martin Ødegaard, who is at the top of his game, produced some clever trickery to slip the ball through the Brighton defence for Gabriel Martinelli, but his low ball across the face of goal was cleared. Breathtaking football. On top of that, Thomas Partey suddenly spotted Bukayo Saka completely free on the right flank and slotted a fine ball through the Brighton defence to send him clear on goal, and he got into the penalty area before his shot was deflected behind for a corner, which sadly went nowhere, especially after all that effort. Shortly afterwards, the first real save of the match came for Aaron Ramsdale as he pushed over a powerful Leandro Trossard strike from just inside the penalty area. It resulted in another corner for the home side, but it was one that our defenders were able to deal with fairly comfortably. Seven minutes before half time, Billy Gilmour headed away a corner to the edge of the penalty area where Martin Ødegaard was waiting to pounce and our captain dispatched a first-time effort into the back of the net for our second goal of the match. In injury time, Billy Gilmour received a yellow card for an extremely late tackle on Thomas Partey, and unblievably, Gabriel then also received one for time wasting, and as the seconds slipped away for the break, Thomas Partey received a yellow card for a late tackle on Adam Lallana. Just afterwards, Anthony Taylor blew the whistle for the half-time hiatus, and we went into the break deservedly two goals to the good.
Brighton and Hove Albion started proceedings for the second half, and it has to be said that the game started fairly much as the first one left off, with some clever play and heavy tackles; however, just as in the first half, we scored almost immediately from the kick off! Gabriel Martinelli raced off down the left wing, got into the penalty area before driving a shot towards Robert Sànchez’s near post, but the goalkeeper could only parry the shot and Eddie Nketiah was on hand to merely tap home the loose ball for our third goal of the game. We had a brief heartstopping moment when Pascal Gross appeared to be able to score; thankfully Aaron Ramsdale saved his shot, but then the linesman’s flag went up as he had just strayed offside, thankfully. Shortly afterwards, Bukayo Saka received a pointless yellow card, and on the hour, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ben White was replaced by our other full-backs, namely Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu for the rest of the game. With twenty-five minutes of the match remaining, a lack of concentration meant that Kaoru Mitoma grabbed one back for the home side, and it looked like we could have a game on our hands here. Although the home side started to string some good passes together, just five minutes after the home side’s goal, Martin Ødegaard played a brilliant ball from inside his own half to send Gabriel Martinelli away down the left wing and bearing down on the Brighton goal, he simply slotted the ball through Robert Sànchez’s legs for our fourth goal of the afternoon. Shortly afterwards, Mikel Arteta made another change as Mohamed Elneny replaced Thomas Partey with eighteen minutes of the match remaining. Five minutes later, there came a rare mistake by William Saliba as he was beaten to the ball by 18-year-old Evan Ferguson, who then bundled the ball past Aaron Ramsdale for their second goal of the match. The game became white hot now, and just after Rob Holding replaced captain Martin Ødegaard, the home side grabbed a third goal through Kaoru Mitoma but thankfully the VAR team alerted everyone to the fact that he was offside, which came as a relief to us, to say the least. During the six minutes injury time, the only incident occurred was when Gabriel appeared to tug the shirt of Jeremy Sarmiento, but fortunately nobody appeared to appeal too hard for it, and the officials did not give it, so in the end it was a non-event, and shortly afterwards, Anthony Taylor brought matters to a conclusion, and we are now top of the Premiership going into 2023, seven points clear of Manchester City.
Despite one or two shaky moments in defence, overall, it was a fantastic performance at a ground where victories have been nigh on impossible for us in recent years, and with thirty-two per cent possession too! Every man oozed class tonight, none more so than captain Martin Ødegaard, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli. All three of these men were instrumental to our victory at the Amex Stadium tonight, and their calmness under pressure was truly a sight to behold. Going into 2023 being seven points clear of Manchester City is a huge confidence boost, and who knows where it will all lead us in the next calendar year? Best foot forwards, chaps. Happy New Year everyone!
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: Newcastle United at the Emirates on Tuesday, 3rd January at 7.45pm(Premier League). Be there, if you can. 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
Great oratory of the game
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