Arsenal (0) 3 AFC Bournemouth (1) 2
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Saturday, 4th March 2023. Kick-off time: 3.00pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Takehiro Tomiyasu, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), Thomas Partey, Fabio Vieira; Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Ben White, Emile Smith-Rowe, Jakob Kiwior, Rob Holding, (Jorge Luiz Frello Filho) Jorginho, Reiss Nelson, Matt Turner, Granit Xhaka.
Scorers: Thomas Partey (62 mins), Ben White (70 mins), Reiss Nelson (90+7 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 81%
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Assistant Referees: Neil Davies, Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth Official: Andre Marriner
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR John Brooks; AVAR Mark Scholes
With Manchester City beating Newcastle United at lunchtime today, the chase is now on. We have to be utterly ruthless this afternoon in our desire to win this match and put more air between ourselves and Manchester City. Nothing more than a win will do today.
Within nine seconds of the start, in the first attack on the our goal, Philip Billing scored the opening goal for the visitors! We have hardly touched the ball, the stadium is completely stunned. We then came at the visitors, and within the space of two minutes, both Martin Ødegaard and Bukayo Saka had good attempts on goal that was saved by goalie Neto. Arsenal have continued piling pressure on the Bournemouth goal, but the visitors are holding out. Amazingly, the visitors almost grabbed a second goal when they counter attacked, and a superb shot from Dango Ouattara was brilliantly saved by Aaron Ramsdale, which all in all was a close run thing. After a quarter of an hour, our afternoon looks like it’s going from bad to worse when Leandro Trossard has picked up an injury and cannot continue playing so substitute Emile Smith-Rowe is on the pitch taking his place. This match has become totally one-way traffic now as we win yet another corner. Arsenal are literally throwing the kitchen sink at Bournemouth but cannot score. After a looping header by Takehiro Tomiyasu which was comfortably gathered by Neto, we had a VAR check after Chris Mepham misjudged the ball which landed on his arm in the Bournemouth penalty area. The penalty shout was cancelled out, and so far this is turning into a most frustrating afternoon for us. Unbelievably, the visitors broke out yet again and Dominic Solanke was threatening to burst through our defence but the danger was cleared before he had a chance to shoot. Five minutes before half-time, Emile Smith-Rowe looked set to equalise from about ten yards but a vital last-ditch challenge by Chris Mepham prevented him from levelling the scores, and then Gabriel Martinelli’s right-footed shot from the centre of the penalty area was blocked as well. Unbelievably, yet again on another Bournemouth counter attack, Dominic Solanke was running away into space in our half, and tried to square to it Dango Ouattara but the pass was too weak and did not reach him, thankfully. After a minute of injury time, referee Chris Kavanagh blew the whistle for the break, and a most frustrating and unbelievable first half was brought to an end. What on earth will the second half bring?
We have started the second half by making a change of personnel, with Ben White replacing Takehiro Tomiyasu, obviously to toughen up things at the back in an attempt to stop further “smash’n’grab” raids by the visitors. There is now a sense of urgency about our general play in this half, as we need to score twice if we are going to end the match with a five-point lead over Manchester City; meanwhile Jack Stephens conceded another corner but it all came to nothing, sadly. With the visitors time wasting so early in the second half, the crowd is getting restless, and eleven minutes after the restart, the visitors grabbed a second goal when a Joe Rothwell cross was met with a firm header from Marcos Senesi. What on earth is happening to our players today? However, just after the hour mark, we are back in the game as Thomas Partey whacked the ball home from just inside the six yard box; the Bournemouth goalie Neto was complaining to the referee, but VAR has looked at it and the goal stands. Neto was booked for arguing with Chris Kavanagh, we have a goal back and there is half an hour left of the game to grab some more. A few minutes later, Reiss Nelson replaced Emile Smith-Rowe, (who came on earlier). Sure enough, with twenty minutes of the game remaining, we grabbed the equaliser when substitute Reiss Nelson crossed the ball for Ben White to score a superb goal from the right hand side of the penalty area which ended up in the top centre of the goal. Our supporters are going crazy, and we still have time to take three points from this unbelievable game. We are throwing everything at the visitors, but so far to no avail. Granit Xhaka replaced Fabio Vieira with six minutes of the game remaining, and the pressure is now on the visitors, relentlessly. On the ninetieth minute, Reiss Nelson created some space for himself on the edge of the penalty area before taking a fabulous shot, which went straight at the Bournemouth goalie. Apparently there is seven minutes injury time, and our desire to not give up is incredible to see. Our captain was desperately unlucky not to score with a difficult shot, but literally in the final minute, out of seemingly nowhere, Reiss Nelson had surely won the game for us after a blistering twenty yard shot following a corner. Unbelievable, totally unbelievable finish here at the Emirates; talk about the late, late show!
With thirty shots on goal (nine on target) and eighty-one percent possession, not to mention a ninety-seventh minute winner, this match had all the hallmarks of a nail biter to say the least. The good thing is that we had the necessary guts and fortitude to keep going relentlessly, grab the winner and keep the five point gap between ourselves and Manchester City; another three points on the board, another win for the boys. Keep going, chaps!
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: Sporting Clube de Portugal at Estádio José Alvalade on Thursday, 9th March at 7.45pm (Europa 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