Did you think it was going to be easy, did you really think that it was going to be easy? When has supporting Arsenal ever been easy?
This supporting a football team malarkey is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, an outlet that helps relive the stresses and strains of the weekly grind. I don’t know about you but I need a holiday because I am shattered after watching that.
Through to the last eight after a nail biting, heart attack inducing, penalty shoot out.
It all started brightly, Van Persie was radiating confidence, Bendtner was operating well down the left; our passing was crisp and we were in control. This lasted a whole nine minutes before a horrendous mix up between Gallas and Toure gifted Roma a goal and plan A of, keep it tight and hit them on the break had gone well and truly out of the window.
This time Roma had done their home work; they were aware that teams that had beaten us in the earlier part of the season did so by chasing us down relentlessly. A tactic that the Italians adopted from the outset and it didn’t take long before it began to have the desired effect.
We started giving the ball away cheaply and our confidence started to drop. As a result, nerves started creeping in and it was starting to look like the occasion was going to be too big for some of our young players.
Roma, like a dog smelling fear came onto us and we were creaking. I feared that this was going to be the end of our Champions league experience for another year. Half time came and we were fortunate to go into the break only one goal behind after Roma had a massive penalty shout turned down two minutes before the interval.
The Italians started the second half where they left off; they were the better team at this point. It was tough viewing, like watching a loved one getting beaten up from a distance and being helpless to do any thing about it.
After 60 minutes the game suddenly opened up and Roma stopped having everything their own way. Diaby started taking more control in the midfield, then after 75 minutes Walcott came on and a glimmer of hope appeared. On 80 minutes Baptista missed an absolute sitter and I thought for the first time, eye, eye, this could be our night. The longer the game went on the stronger we became. Roma were starting to tire. We were now the better side but more down to our levels of fitness rather than our level of skill. Enter Eduardo and things were really starting to look up. With one minute to go Toure missed our chance of the match.
Extra time came. Roma had picked up so many knocks they resembled the walking wounded as they hobbled around the pitch; we were in the ascendancy but the all important away goal continued to allude us. My nerves were frayed and then just to make things worse, Penalties! Tension,tension,tension,tension,tension…yeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssss.
It was always going to be difficult but that was the one we needed to win. Compared to the first leg at the Emirates, last night was a poor performance and one I do not expect us to repeat in a hurry. Eduardo and Walcott were clearly not 100% fit but they will be by the next round, add Adebayor, Fabregas and even Rosicky and we are a different team.
To those on the outside, we will be viewed as the weakest English link in the draw for next round but to all us on the inside, we are well aware that you underestimate The Arsenal at your peril.
Every day is a good day to be an Arsenal supporter but some days are more special than others and today is a very, very special day indeed.