Arsenal secured third place in the Premier League with a typically nerve-jangling performance at the Hawthorns. Up early through Yossi Benayoun, the Gunners were caught by two strikes in quick succession by the home side, before rescuing the three points with an Andre Santos strike and a scrappy second half winner from Laurent Koscielny. Despite the fact that Spurs beat Fulham, the 70 point total secured by Arsene Wenger’s men means we’ll be enjoying automatic qualification for the Champions League next term.
I apologise in advance, for what you’re about to read, I start with the best of intentions, but it descends quickly into a farce. My brain has been absolutely frazzled by the highs and lows of this season. Combine that with having to watch the action on technology which would have shamed the Victorians and a bout of the most intense pre-match nerves I’ve experienced in years and all I could think about while typing was whether I might throw up at any moment. Anyway…
I suppose we should start with team news. Arsene sprung a surprise handing Francis Coquelin a starting berth in place of Aaron Ramsey in the centre of the park and selecting Carl Jenkinson in Bacary Sagna’s right-back slot.
We couldn’t have made a better start. As news filtered in from White Hart Lane that Emmanuel Adebayor had given Spurs the lead, Yossi Benayoun charged down the West Brom goalkeeper Marton Fulop after the ball had spilled free from a Van Persie dribble, nicked the ball off his toes and walked the ball into the back of the net. We wanted an early goal and we got it. Another very important contribution from the on loan Israeli.
It was a scrappy fare, but we didn’t look unduly fazed by the pressure of defending a lead. Of course, you never can underestimate the cuntishness of the officials.
After a James Morrison through ball found Shane Long, the linesman decided that the West Brom striker, despite being two yards offside, should be allowed to waltz through on goal and slide the ball past Szczesny. It was total bollocks. It should never have stood and Arsene went ballistic.
Three minutes later, and apparently still shell-shocked from the blow of conceding an equaliser, Graham Dorrans scored again for West Brom. To be honest my stream was so shit I could barely see it. But it looked as though another ball was fed between the centrebacks and the striker after controlling it with his head, hit it early to beat our Pole in goal. Behind again.
On 18 minutes the busy Benayoun fired over on the volley, two minutes later Everton took the lead against Newcastle United. Gervinho was finding plenty of space on the right hand side with Jenkinson happy to overlap with the Ivorian. That being said, the home side continued to defend stoutly whenever we approached their box. Benayoun was denied again, this time by a heroic block.
On 26 minutes Van Persie was awarded a free-kick on the very edge of the box after a great turn. Unfortunately, his effort from the set piece went straight into the wall. Everton in the meantime, doubled their lead over Newcastle.
Just before the half-hour mark, Andre Santos intercepted the ball in the final third, nipped around a couple of defenders and arrowed a low left foot drive at the near post. The keeper should probably have parried the ball around the post but thankfully it nestled in the back of the net. 2-2. After the emotional turmoil of last week’s rollercoaster ride with Norwich, this was another game intent on wrecking the nerves of Gooners across the world.
Van Persie picked up a booking for a late challenge, West Brom won a series of corners, but trying to guess who would score next was a tough call. Just as the half-time whistle was about to blow, Gervinho made good headway down the right, cut in and shot low. It looked from certain angles as if it had gone in, but actually rippled the side netting.
Knowing we needed a win to secure third, Wenger sent on Theo Walcott for the second half with Tomas Rosicky the man sacrificed. The England man took a position on the left, with Gervinho remaining on the right.
Five minutes into the second half, and the Baggies were dealt a blow when the influential James Morrison was forced off with an injury. While the home side were down to ten men, Andre Santos flashed a terrific swerving effort just wide.
A contentious corner earned by van Persie allowed the Dutchman a chance to swing the ball into the box. It landed straight in the hands of Fulop who ridiculously back punched the ball towards his only line. Laurent Koscielny was on hand to volley the ball home from close quarters and it was 3-2 and we were back in third.
West Brom promptly upped the pressure and seemed to win about 25 corners in a row. Each time the ball seemed to bounce around in the box with no Arsenal player particularly eager to hoof it clear. At White Hart Lane Spurs scored their second against Fulham to up ante.
Gervinho was removed for Gibbs, Keith Andrews had a great shot parried by Szczesny, a Song effort was deflected for a corner. It was frantic stuff.
With 20 minutes left in his last game as West Brom boss, Roy Hodgson threw on nippy Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie. Van Persie was threaded through by Benayoun, but was forced too far wide and couldn’t make the most of a half chance. Aaron Ramsey came on for Andre Santos, so too did Paul Scharner for the hosts. At this point I’m not really sure what our fucking formation was.
10 minutes to go. More West Brom pressure, more nervous defending.
5 minutes to go. I can’t watch.
4 minutes to go. I must watch.
3 minutes to go.
2 minutes to go.
1 minute to go.
Arrrrrgggghhh 5 minutes of extra-time.
Van Persie goes through. He fires over. Fucking hell.
Gibbs makes an unbelievable last gasp stop.
3 minutes of extra-time left.
2 minutes of extra-time left.
Full-time at Spurs and Redknapp’s mugs have won.
1 minute to go.
YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Third place secured!
St. Totteringham’s day!