Date: 9th August 2006 at 10:25am
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Arsenal took full control of their Champions League destiny yesterday after they took a 3-0 first leg victory back to Ashburton Grove.

The mighty Gunners were without Le God, Senderos, Lehmann, Ljungberg & the ever present Theo Walcott, yet this young team strolled (almost) into the group stages. It is unthinkable, indeed laughable to think that Dinamo Zagreb will score three or more goals at our new home, so to all intents and purposes………we’re through.

Star of the show was Cesc Fabregas, carrying on his performances from last year the little Spaniard has taken the number four shirt and made it his own. He may only be 19 but he is a player who would walk into any club side in the world, such is his composure, skill & vision.

Jose Antonio Reyes was the ‘suprise’ omission of the night with growing speculation that he will now join Real Madrid after being left out by Wenger to avoid the winger being cup tied.

The match began quite lively, with the ‘Bad Blue Boys’ making all the noise and with the boys in red and white dictating the play. The young Arsenal team played the ball with confidence and in a crisp and confident fashion, although there were no real clear cut chances (or scares) in the first half, there was still much to be happy about.

Half time saw no changes for Arsenal and it wasn’t long before the deadlock was broken. Alex Hleb played the ball to van Persie in a central position on the edge of the Zagreb Area, the Dutchman played a neat pass on the volley for the onrushing Fabregas who flashed the ball across the keeper and into the corner. Quality.

Sixty seconds later and the Gunners had doubled their money, Hleb again directing play, chipped in a pint point pass over the top for Robin van Persie to run on to. On his favorite left foot he zero’d in on goal, with a flick of his boot he played the ball across the face of the keeper, who should have done better into the corner of the net. Pretty much game over.

Fabregas all but killed off the tie with a superb individual effort in the 79th minute, picking up the ball 20 yards from goal Cesc showed phenominal strength for such a slight framed young man to hold off 3 defender and finish in much the same way as his first goal.

All in all the boys were fantastic, with only Gilberto over the age of 25 in the outfield, this reletively inexperienced team showed the rest of Europe that even without our best player, we’re still a force not to be messed with. In a game that most people expected us to have a rough time with, we made it look pretty easy.

Absolutely Fab-ulous.

Player Ratings

Almunia
For a player who is consistently ridiculed, he looked pretty solid – 7

Eboue
Lost posession on ocassions but won it back in style – 6

Hoyte
Our 900th left back over the past twelve months performed the job as well as anyone – 7

Djourou
The 19 year old showed pace and power and made some fantastic tackle – 8

Toure
He is now the general of the Arsenal defence, our rock and one of the best centre backs around – 7

Rosicky
‘Little Mozart’ certainly looked at home in the red and white, stylish, quick, inventive and not afraid to tackle back. Wenger does it again – 8

Hleb
Picking up where he left off. Probably the best dribbler of the ball at Arsenal since Anders Limpar. Will come into his own this season – 7

Gilberto
The invisible wall, nobody notices him, but he performs his job admirably – 7

Fabregas
What can you say about this youngman? Without a doubt one of the most exciting players in world football – 9

Adebayor
Led the front line well, looked strong, held up play well and linked up to great effect – 8

van Persie
This will be RVP’s season. His left foot is as deadly as they come, took his goal well – 7