Arsenal enters Champions League final

Updated: 25 February 2007 10:40 IST

Arsenal drew 0-0 with Villarreal to reach its first Champions League final on Tuesday.

Arsenal enters Champions League final

Villarreal:

Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann saved Juan Roman Riquelme's late penalty kick to enable Arsenal to draw 0-0 with Villarreal to reach its first Champions League final.The English team advanced 1-0 on aggregate, but was dominated by the small-town team from eastern Spain at El Madrigal stadium in the second leg."I thought to myself if it is our year we'll save it,'' Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said. "I knew Jens wouldn't be beaten easily. There was a lot of pressure on Riquelme. I felt he concentrated on hitting the target instead of placing it.Arsenal, which was making its first appearance in the Champions League semifinals like Villarreal, will play FC Barcelona or AC Milan in the title match at the Stade de France in Paris on May 17."I was worried. We showed a lot of character and resilience tonight. We didn't find our game, in the end with a bit of luck and character we have gone through,'' Wenger said.Stupendous performanceArsenal remained unbeaten in 12 Champions League games this season, the last 10 without conceding a goal."We were a bit lucky tonight,'' Wenger added. "It is a fantastic achievement and the team has great character. We didn't manage to play tonight. I don't know if that was for physical reasons or psychological reasons."We never came into our fluent game - we needed luck and resilience and we had both tonight.'' Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini was left shaking his head."We played such a complete game. We were very superior to Arsenal - even better than they were in the first leg,'' Pellegrini said. The 89th-minute penalty came when referee Valentin Ivanov whistled reserve defender Gael Clichy for knocking over substitute forward Jose Mari Romero from behind as the two battled for a high ball. Riquelme put his attempt right, where Lehman dived and blocked the shot."Gael Clichy had an amazing game and the penalty was very harsh. If that's a penalty then you'll see one everyday of the week,'' Arsenal captain Thierry Henry said. "It was a team effort, but Jens was magnificent. He had an amazing game, not just the save.''Lehmann drew praise from several places. "I'm pleased when a guy shows professionalism and a winning attitude,'' Wenger said. In the fourth minute, striker Guillermo Franco wasted the first of several Villarreal chances when he shot over the crossbar from inside the penalty area.Crowd supportIn front of a crowd of more than 20,000, Villarreal dominated the first half with Riquelme troubling an Arsenal defense that had Sol Campbell making his return after missing several months."From start to finish the crowd was behind them. It makes you understand why nobody wins here,'' Wenger said.Villarreal midfielder Juan Pablo Sorin's low shot in the 17th was caught by Lehmann, while right back Javi Venta's low cross sailed through the goal area untouched in the 37th.With Henry largely uninvolved in attack and midfielder Cesc Fabregas regularly misplacing his passes, Arsenal didn't threaten Villarreal goalkeeper Mariano Barbosa.Lehmann held Riquelme's low free kick just before halftime as Arsenal clung onto its lead from Kolo Toure's goal at London's Highbury last week.Franco headed two chances just wide in the 48th and 54th minutes, and Diego Forlan almost scored when his side-footed shot missed in the 64th.Franco had the ball in the net three minutes later, but Ivanov disallowed the goal for offside.With time waning, however, Riquelme was presented with the chance to equalize from the penalty spot and take the game into extra time.



Topics : Football Arsenal
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