Arsenal-Roma: Arsenal Out-Gun Roma, Advance to Champions League Quarterfinals

czarsenalCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2009

True to Arsenal's form in the 2008-09 season, the young team left things late, made life more difficult for themselves, and needed something dramatic to prevail.

Heading into the Stadio Olimpico, Arsenal were one goal up on their Italian opponents, but after nine minutes Roma defender Juan levelled the score on aggregate.

Arsenal were rocked.

The team had come to snatch an away goal, however, it was AS Roma who seemed the more likely to score in a first half where both sides shared possession but neither could really break through.

Arsenal looked like a team on the road, attempting to spring something up front with long aerial passes and crosses that never seemed to produce anything.

The stalemate continued until the end of normal time, and, after two 15-minute periods of extra time, the teams were still level. So it went to penalty kicks.

Arsenal's new talisman of determination and perseverance, Eduardo, stepped up first but was denied when AS Roma keeper Doni guessed correctly. Eduardo looked disappointed that he didn't do better.

Pizarro was up first for Roma and promptly smashed the ball into the back of the net.

The home side looked like they were going to keep their heads and punish Arsenal for not ending things during regulation or extra time.

Arsenal Player of the Month Robin van Persie was up next for the Gunners and scored a nice side footed penalty. The Dutchman was cool as a cucumber.

Roma's Vucinic was next. He had been tipped as a likely goal threat for Roma in this game, but managed to scoff what must have been one of the worst penalty kicks in Champions League history. Almunia just needed to squat and let the ball hit him; the kick was that bad.

Theo Walcott stepped up to the spot. He managed to sneak his shot just under Doni, and was lucky to see his shot hit the back of the net. Arsenal were now in the driver's seat.

Baptista took his place. Almunia was obviously trying to rattle the former Gunner, however it was "The Beast" who roared home his shot. He was pumped and you sensed that things might yet turn around for Roma.

Nasri was next. He took his queue from Van Persie and kept his composure to calmly strike the ball into the back of the net. Arsenal were starting to look like master penalty takers.

Montella, who was a late substitute in the game because of this spot kick prowess, took his turn and stroked his shot into the bottom corner. Roma were hanging on.

Young Denilson was next. Not known for finding the net, the youngster drove his shot down the middle, baffling Doni.

The Gunners were hitting the target again and again!

AS Roma Captain Totti was next. If he missed, Arsenal were through, but he was not going to be the goat on this night.

So the affair moved on to sudden death. The first team to miss were done.

Toure for Arsenal. Fast run up and belts it home. A nice penalty. His movement might have upset Doni, who was on his toes to try to guess which way Toure was going to go.

Aquilani for Roma. He makes no mistake. This is turning out to be a real slugfest, with each team bulging the old onion bag again and again.

More defenders come up to the spot, with Sagna next in line. Another nicely taken penalty.

The Gunners seemed so cool and composed, like it was just another day at the office at the training ground.

Riise took his turn for Roma, and powered his shot into the net.

Diaby for Arsenal—boom, into the net. It is like each Arsenal penalty is being fired from a quick fire pistol.

And so it comes to Roma's Tonetto.

When will this end? Which side will crack under pressure?

Whose calm nerves will keep their team's European hopes alive?

Who will be immortalized forever—a keeper with a fine save, or an outfield player with a poor shot or complete miss?!

Tonetto misses completely. Arsenal celebrate, run over to their traveling fans, and book their place in the quarterfinals.

Arsenal showed amazing composure and some textbook penalty taking. Hopefully they will learn from this game that if they leave things too late, fortune may not shine so brightly on their young faces.

However, credit where it is due; the marksmanship and mental strength were obvious, and Arsenal can claim yet another Italian scalp in their European exploits.


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