Thu, Feb 26, 2009 - Page 20 News List

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Van Persie gives Arsenal penalty edge over Roma


Arsenal captain Robin van Persie, left, jumps for the ball as he clashes with Roma’s Daniele De Rossi during their Champions League round of 16, first-leg match at the Emirates Stadium in London on Tuesday.


Arsenal were the sole winners on Tuesday in the Champions League last-16, first-leg matches and that was only thanks to a Robin van Persie penalty giving them a 1-0 victory over AS Roma.

Elsewhere, the much-awaited clash between Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan and old rival Sir Alex Ferguson’s titleholders Manchester United ended in a 0-0 draw in Milan, which at least handed United a Champions League record of 20 successive matches without defeat.

Former Arsenal hero Thierry Henry scored with a neatly taken header to earn Barcelona a 1-1 draw away at seven-time French champions Lyon, who had taken the lead through a freekick from Brazilian Juninho.

Henry’s goal took him into sole fourth place in the list of all-time European Cup goalscorers with 48, some 14 shy of record holder Raul.

A former Manchester United striker, Diego Forlan, was also on the mark for Atletico Madrid, but it was not enough to give them victory at home as a double by Lisandro Lopez grabbed a 2-2 draw for one of Mourinho’s former clubs, FC Porto.

Despite Arsenal grabbing a useful advantage to take to Rome in a fortnight manager Arsene Wenger was left frustrated as the Gunners, especially misfiring striker Nicklas Bendtner, were guilty of wasting chance after chance.

“I am happy with our performance but of course there was room to score more goals. That is the regret we have,” said Wenger, who has had to watch as Arsenal have failed to score in their last three Premier League matches. “One of the positives is we didn’t concede a goal. It puts us in a position where we know we need to attack over there. If we score once that should be enough.”

Ferguson, too, was left to bemoan the fact that his side had dominated but failed to find the back of the net, with Inter’s Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar the hosts’ most impressive player as he pulled off a series of great saves.

“I hope not scoring a goal doesn’t come back to bite us,” Ferguson said. “There’s obviously disappointment we haven’t won the game for sure.”

“The second leg is at Old Trafford and with our record there we must have a good chance to win the match and that’s what we need to do, to win the match in front of own fans,” he said. “We’re capable of doing that, the game isn’t finished, but we’ve given ourselves a chance of doing that.”

For Mourinho there was relief to have got away with a scoreless draw.

“When I won the Champions League [with Porto in 2004] we drew 0-0 at home in the semi-final and then won away to Deportivo [La Coruna],” the self-anointed “Special One” said.

For Lyon coach Claude Puel and his Barcelona counterpart Pep Guardiola it was a case of two halves.

“I am neither disappointed nor satisfied,” Puel said. “We could have and should have scored more goals in the first half, but we went too much into our shell in the second half.”

Guardiola, while happy to come away with an away goal, had his own concerns.

“It was a difficult evening for us, but we will go away and assess the match and what we can do to improve on that in a fortnight’s time,” he said. “We didn’t play very well in the first half, but we pulled up our socks and performed much better in the second period and controlled the game.”

Guardiola may have been content to grab an away goal, but that was not the reaction of Porto’s handler Jesualdo Ferreira despite what was perhaps the most impressive result of the evening.

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