Schoolboy Errors Cost Arsenal Dear Against FC Porto in Champions League

Owen WatsonCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2010

PORTO, PORTUGAL - FEBRUARY 17:  Fernando of FC Porto and Theo Walcott of Arsenal battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg match between FC Porto and Arsenal at the Estadio Do Dragao on February 17, 2010 in Porto, Portugal.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

FC Porto took the advantage in their Champions League Round of 16 game against Arsenal, with a 2-1 win in the Estadio de Dragao. The Gunners gifted both goals to the hosts with two separate mistakes by deputy ‘keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Arsenal weren’t at full flow, missing six starters due to injuries to Manuel Almunia, William Gallas, Alex Song, Andrey Arshavin, and Eduardo da Silva. To their credit, Porto played well, but the Gunners had restricted the Dragoes largely to half-chances.

Before the game, many had called for Almunia to be dropped, pointing to his poor performances in big games. He had also conceded a huge percentage of shots on target in his last four games.

Those calls had been undermined by Arsene Wenger’s admission that Almunia had been playing injured and have now been thoroughly discredited with Fabianski’s shocking performance tonight.

In the first half the Polish ‘keeper pushed the ball into his own net following a routine cross into the box, before conceding a pointless indirect free-kick following a back pass by Sol Campbell. Porto did well to score from the set piece, taking it quickly to catch out the Gunners. But it was shambolic defending.

To make matters worse Arsenal were denied a clear penalty moments before the second goal, as Tomas Rosicky was brought down. Minutes before this incident Bacary Sagna had told Fabianski to communicate with his defenders better, in a nearly identical situation with Sagna shepherding the ball back to his ‘keeper.

Even Fabregas described Arsenal's defending as "school boy" after the game.

These decisions may yet prove decisive in the tie, with Arsenal facing a tough return fixture back at the Emirates in two weeks time. They should be able to secure passage to the quarterfinals with a full contingent, but it won’t be routine.

They do have a vital away goal, as Campbell headed home after a Fabregas corner. A draw probably would have been a fair result on the balance of play, but the Gunners will have to overcome a 2-1 deficit to progress to the next round.