UEFA Champions League

November 2, 2005



3 - 0

Sparta Prague

Group B

19:45 +00:00, November 2, 2005

Highbury, England

  • 92'

    FULL-TIME: A late flourish puts a gloss on the scoreline, but Arsenal were made to work for it. Prague defended resolutely until Van Persie's late brace ensured Arsenal's progression to the knock-out stages.

  • 90'

    Blazek turns the ball around the post as an Arsenal corner is deflected goalwards. Good alert goalkeeping.

  • 89'

    ALMOST! Van Persie sends over a left-foot cross which is almost headed in to his own net by Kadlek.

  • 88'

    OOOH! Van Persie almost completes an astonishing hat-trick, though he is denied by a good save from Blazek as he shot from a tight angle.

  • 87'

    Sparta have had plenty of shots this evening, but they have only tested the Arsenal goalkeeper twice.

  • 86'

    SHOT! Zalenka smashes a left-foot shot a few yards over Amunia's crossbar from just ouside the penalty area.

  • 86'

    A nice finish from Arsenal as they end the game with a flourish. The scoreline probably flatters them a little, but they are taking full advantage of the space at the back.

  • 85'

    GOAL! Eboue does well to get to the by-line and cut the ball back to Van Persie, who slots a right-foot shot past Blazek and in to the corner.

  • 84'

    CHANCE! Matusovic curls a superb ball in to the penalty area where Petras had stole in around the back of the defence. Just six yards out, he plants his volley over the bar.

  • 83'

    Almunia was caught in no-man's land on that corner; he neither came for the ball nor stayed on his line. Not a confident display from the keeper.

  • 82'

    OFF THE BAR! Petras plants a header off the underside of the crossbar as he meets a corner from the left.

  • 81'

    SUB: Reyes off, Eboue on. Arsenal give a run-out to their young striker after Van Persie's goal finishes off the tie.

  • 80'

    GOAL! Bergkamp rolls the ball in to the path of Van Persie after Reyes had robbed the ball on the half-way line. The youngster cuts inside on to his left foot and smashes a shot past Blazek from the edge of the penalty area.

  • 79'

    RIPPER! Reyes picks out Bergkamp and reverses a lofted pass out to the right wing. The veteran Dutchman takes a step inside the area and unleases a powerful shot, but it flies a yard over the bar.

  • 78'

    SUB: Petras off, Jeslinek on. A Champions League debut for the youngster.

  • 77'

    The header of a moment or two ago should really spark Arsenal in to life and encourage them to finish this game off.

  • 76'

    HEADER! Slepicka curls a flat, dangerous cross in to the six-yard box, and Matusovic flicks a header inches over the crossbar. A warning for Arsenal.

  • 74'

    There are a few anti-Mourinho chants around Highbury at the moment; a response to the recent 'War of Words' between the Chelsea manager and Arsene Wenger.

  • 73'

    ...This time Reyes takes the set-piece. He goes near post, but curls it a yard or so wide. Blazek seemed to have the effort covered anyway.

  • 73'

    Hasek commits another foul in a dangerous area. It's in a similar spot to the Van Persie free-kick of a few minutes ago...

  • 72'

    SUB: Pires off, Fabregas on. The young Spaniard replaces the veteran Frenchman as Arsenal try to inject some fresh energy in to the game.

  • 71'

    ...It's three-on-three on the counter-attack. Reyes releases Pires down the right channel, but the Frenchman then blazes his shot high over the crossbar when well-placed inside the penalty area.

  • 71'

    ...Petras curls the ball in to the middle, but Arsenal clear and break at pace...

  • 70'

    Matusovic is fouled by Reyes; free-kick, out on the left wing...

  • 69'

    Arsenal prepare to make another change, with Fabregas stripping down on the substitutes bench.

  • 68'

    ...Van Persie strikes a left-foot shot goalwards, and Blazek makes a good solid save, punching the ball over the bar. Corner.

  • 68'

    Van Persie tricks his marker in to a foul. Free-kick, 25 yards out, slightly right-of-centre...

  • 68'

    Clichy seems to be moving a lot easier now; it must have been just a temporary injury.

  • 67'

    The game has gone very flat again, although the lead remains just one goal.

  • 66'

    SUB: Henry off, Van Persie on. Wenger decides to take no chances on his skipper as he comes back from his groin injury.

  • 65'

    Arsenal are readying a substitute. Clichy seems to be limping a little, though Bergkamp will probably be the man to make way for Van Persie.

  • 64'

    ...Off-side. Pospech was off-side as he attempted to get on the end of the chip in to the penalty area.

  • 63'

    Pospech tumbles inside the penalty area as he and Clichy clash going for a loose ball. The referee's whistle blows! WHAT HAS HE GIVEN...

  • 62'

    Arsenal are still showing plenty of willingness to get forward, but nothing they are trying around the penalty area is coming off at the moment.

  • 61'

    Henry sends the corner to the back post, but it's too long for all Arsenal's tallest players and the visitors clear.

  • 61'

    Reyes wins his side a corner when he tricks his full back and his attempted cross is deflected behind.

  • 60'

    SHOT! Bergkamp only half-clears a corner; it lands at the feet of Pergl, but his right-foot shot is blocked inside the Arsenal penalty area.

  • 59'

    SUB: Polacek, Slepicka on. An attacking change from the visitors as they bid to get some more support to Matusovic.

  • 58'

    Pires shows some good pace down the right hand side as he leaves Kadlek on the floor, though he then ruins his good work as he runs the ball out of play.

  • 57'

    Indeed, the visiting side seem to be preparing a change; there is some activity on their bench.

  • 56'

    Sparta have plenty of options on the bench should they decide they need a change as they bid to get back in to the game.

  • 55'

    The atmosphere has picked up a little in the second half. Maybe it has something to do with the rain finally relenting.

  • 54'

    Sparta deal with the corner well, and get the ball back when Clichy's long pass out to the left wing is over-hit and runs out.

  • 53'

    ...He curls the ball near-post, but Blazek flies across his goal and makes a good save. Corner.

  • 52'

    ...Henry stands over the ball...

  • 52'

    Henry slips past Petras but is brought down by Pergl on the edge of the penalty area. Dangerous spot for a free-kick...

  • 51'

    Zalenka pulls back Reyes inside the Arsenal half, and Arsenal take the chance to settle things down.

  • 50'

    HENRY! Bergkamp holds the ball up inside the penalty area before slipping a pass inside to Henry, but the French striker stumbles at the crucial moment and runs the ball out of play.

  • 49'

    Arsenal might need the comfort of a second goal to settle them down a bit; whilst conditions are as they are, there is always the chance of a mistake at the back.

  • 48'

    Polacek breaks down the left-hand side for Prague; his deep cross to the back post ends at the feet of Matusovic, but he slices his left-foot shot high over the bar.

  • 47'

    Sparta seem to have pushed someone up field to support Matusovic in this second half, and it has left a bit of space at the back for Arsenal to try and exploit.

  • 46'

    The set-piece is whipped in to the far post by Reyes, but Campell fails to attack it and the ball drifts out for a goalkick.

  • 46'

    A nice spell of possession from Arsenal as they knock the ball about between them in some tight spaces. It ends when Pires wins his side a corner.

  • 45'

    Arsenal kick off the second half. It seems to have stopped raining.

  • 45'

    HALF-TIME: Henry's sublime 25-yard strike separates the two sides. Horrible conditions, but Arsenal are well on course to progress.

  • 44'

    There are a few half-hearted appeals for handball after Pospech's cross deflects on to Campbell's arm inside the area.

  • 43'

    COUNTER! Reyes and Henry combine in a quick Arsenal counter-attack. They work the ball out in to the right channel for Bergkamp, but he can't quite centre the ball to the rampaging Pires. Good move.

  • 42'

    Sparta are a very organised side and have made it difficult for Arsenal going forward, but the home side have hardly hit third gear so far tonight.

  • 41'

    Henry is doing his best to keep Arsenal sparking, coming deep to collect the ball and run at the visitor's defence.

  • 40'

    The pace of the game has slowed a little as we approach half-time.

  • 38'

    Flamini and Gilberto have been very solid in the middle of the park for Arsenal; almost all the creative play is done in front of them, but they do some important link-up work for the team.

  • 37'

    Henry almost steals on to a short back-pass from Pergl, although the goalkeeper is alert enough to come out of his area to clear.

  • 36'

    OOOH! Reyes cuts on to his rarely-used right foot and drags a shot a couple of yards wide of Blazek's near post.

  • 35'

    Arsenal have had almost two-thirds of the possession so far, although the visitors have matched them shot-for-shot; granted, most have been from distance, but Arsenal certainly haven't had it all their own way.

  • 34'

    Perhaps the damp conditions are contributing, but the atmosphere inside Highbury tonight really is poor; you could almost hear a pin drop. Or a rain drop.

  • 33'

    A win here will be a huge relief to Wenger; he knows his side will have qualified and will be able to rest some of his key players for the final two group games.

  • 32'

    Lauren earns himself a word from the referee when he slides in on Zalenka. Replays suggest he seemed to get the ball, as Lauren points out.

  • 31'

    ...The set-piece is worked to Pires, but his snap-shot is easily claimed by the goalkeeper.

  • 31'

    Bergkamp mounts a swift counter-attack through the middle; he slides a pass in to the feet of Reyes, who cuts on to his left foot and attempts to curl inside the far post. Blazek is wise to his intentions, and palms wide for a corner.

  • 30'

    Lukas shows considerable composure as he collects a dangerous pass inside his own penalty area with Henry hunting him down.

  • 29'

    Although the crowd enjoyed Henry's excellent strike, they have gone rather quiet in the last few minutes as the home side settle back down.

  • 28'

    Toure is having to keep on his toes as Matsuovic chases down everything that the Prague midfield are attempting to slide through to him.

  • 27'

    Since Henry's goal, the visitors have had the better of the possession, and are starting to grow in confidence. This time Petras strikes a shot on goal, although it drifts a few yards wide of the far post.

  • 26'

    Although they are only playing with one striker, Prague are showing an admireable level of ambition; they are getting plenty players forward and threatening on occasions down the flanks.

  • 25'

    Reyes is brought down by Pergl on the left touchline. Good play by the Spaniard.

  • 24'

    ...SAVE! The ball is worked out to Hasek, 25 yards out. He strikes a beautiful shot through the crowded penalty area, but Almunia is solidly behind it and punches clear.

  • 23'

    Matsuovic pressurises Toure in to heading the ball out as they chased a hopefull punt over the top. Corner...

  • 22'

    It will be difficult to point the finger of blame at the goalkeeper; Henry hit his shot low and hard and put a lot of curl on it as he bent it inside the far post.

  • 21'

    GOAL! Henry opens the scoring with a low shot from twenty-five yards. A great finish from the Arsenal captain, giving Blazek no chance.

  • 20'

    SHOT! Sparta ask another question or two of the Arsenal defence as Pospech gets down the right and sends over a cross. Unfortunately, Zalenka meets the ball on the edge of the area and smashes a shot high and wide.

  • 19'

    The rain is still pouring down in north London, and Highbury isn't the best ground when it comes to spectactor cover; plenty of fans in the front rows will be getting soaked.

  • 18'

    Pires slips as he tries to get on the end of Henry's pass out to him. He seems to catch a boot in the chest from his marker, and gets to his feet wincing and holding his ribs.

  • 17'

    Henry and Reyes combine well with a neat one-two on the edge of the Prague penalty box, but the flambouyant pair opt for one pass too many and the goalkeeper is able to collect.

  • 16'

    OOOH! Almunia gets an important hand on the ball as Matusovic cut in to the Arsenal penalty area. Toure is there to clear up the loose ball. A rare moment of danger for the home side.

  • 15'

    CHANCE! Again, Pires gets past his marker on the right. He cuts a low pass across the edge of the area, but Bergkamp scuffs his shot and Blazek easily saves.

  • 14'

    Sparta have barely had the ball in the Arsenal half; it has been all the home team in these opening minutes.

  • 13'

    BAR! A nice move involving Pires and Henry ends with Bergkamp clipping a left-foot shot against the crossbar from just six yards out. He should have done a lot better from there.

  • 12'

    Pires wins a free-kick in a dangerous position when he is brought down, though Arsenal can't profit from the situation.

  • 10'

    It is really throwing down with rain here, and the conditions aren't difficult for either side.

  • 9'

    Lauren and Pires combine well down the left; Lauren manages to get behind the Czech defence, but his cut-back to the penalty spot is cleared by Kadlek.

  • 8'

    Pires wins the second corner of the night when his cross from the right is deflected behind. The set-piece is worked towards Reyes, but his chip in to the area is gathered by keeper Blazek.

  • 7'

    Arsenal's is a very fluid 4-4-2; Bergkamp is coming deep, Reyes is coming off the touchline, and Henry is all over. They have started very confidently.

  • 6'

    Bergkamp wins a free-kick when he is brought down on the half way line. Arsenal take it quickly in an effort to keep the tempo of the match high, but the visitors flood back.

  • 5'

    Clichy knocks a long ball out to Henry on the left wing. The Arsenal legend cuts inside and wins his side's first corner of the night when his attempted cross is deflected behind.

  • 4'

    Arsenal are playing with a regular 4-4-2 system, with Pires on the right and Reyes on the left of midfield.

  • 3'

    The ball appears to be running a little slow across the surface here, and it might be hindering Arsenal's attempts to pass their way through the Czech defence.

  • 2'

    Henry lays a pass in to the path of Bergkamp, who attempts to sprint past two Sparta defenders. Quickly, he realises that he is 36-years-old, and turns back.

  • 1'

    Sparta kick off the action in North London. Arsenal are defending a 100 per cent record in Europe this season, and know that victory tonight will ensure their passage to the knockout stages.


    It's been raining in London all day today. In fact, it's still raining. Subsequently, the pitch is wet. How that will affect the game, God only knows.


    The players are out on the pitch and puffing out their chests as the Champions League anthem belts out over the loud speaker at Highbury.


    Meanwhile, Sparta manager Stanislav Griga adopts a defensive formation, with Miroslav Matusovic as the lone striker.


    Some team news: Thierry Henry returns to captain the Gunners, although goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is out with a back injury.


    Hi, my name is Alex and I'll be guiding you through our coverage of Arsenal's home match against Sparta Prague.