By Walter Broeckx
Arsenal making three changes compared to the side that beat West Ham United.
Bellerin came back at right back and Chambers dropped to the bench. In midfield Santi Cazorla came in for Ramsey. And up front Welbeck came in the place of Walcott.
The team that started was : Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Welbeck, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud. On the bench near the beach : Szczesny, Gibbs, Gabriel, Chambers, Ramsey, Flamini, Walcott.
The first attacks came from Monaco but they didn’t really have a shot between the posts. Monaco leaning back and Arsenal playing rather carfully not opening themselves completely to a Monaco counter. It took a while before we got our first real chance but Giroud headed it wide after a cross from Bellerin.
A bit later a cross from Giroud but the volley from Cazorla was blocked by a defender. A free kick fell for Koscielny but the Frenchman hit the cross bar. He was not correctly judged offside but he missed the chance so it didn’t matter. A bit later Welbeck with a backheel but the ball fell kindly for the Monaco keeper. Arsenal slowly putting more pressure on Monaco.
Arsenal working the ball well but the last pass was just not good enough to produce an end product. Arsenal the better team in the first half hour but nothing to show for it on the score board. Always a last foot or head or body from Monaco in the way. And after 35 minutes a good lay off from Welbeck to Giroud who turned excellent past his man. The keeper blocked the first attempt but the ball came back to Giroud who put it in the net with his right foot. 0-1 to the Arsenal after 35 minutes.
Two minutes later a cross from Alexis from the left a header from a defender and Welbeck with a low shot that was going in but the defender who was still on the floor diverted it without knowing it in to a corner. Alexis then getting a yellow card for a dive but there was clearly contact in his back so the ref had not right to give a card for a dive. The instructions are clear only when a player goes down without any contact you can give him a yellow card. And in the last minute of the first half a good low cross but Giroud couldn’t put enough weight on it as a defender also blocked the shot and the keeper could gather it. Welbeck with a shot from a difficult angle straight at the keeper was the last attempt in the extra minute of the first half. Arsenal leading after having played a very organised match and without rushing things. Still 45 minutes to score two goals.
After a first scare when Bellerin was almost cought in possession at the start of the second half a good attack on the left, a cross from Alexis to Welbeck who laid it off to Giroud but his shot went wide. The ref then calling back an Arsenal attack for an imaginary foul when the assistant who was meters away didn’t signal anything. Kondogbia then getting a yellow card for a late challenge on Alexis. Ref waiting for the advantage but as there was non calling the play back to the foul. Özil with a great free kick but the keeper palmed it over the crossbar.
A counter from Monaco but Dirar was just offside but Ospina blocked the shot anyway. Then some up and under defending from Arsenal giving Monaco the ball back in our own penalty area but luckily our defenders managed to stop the efforts from a few Monaco players. Still only 0-1 after 60 minutes.
Ramsey preparing himself to come on in the place of Coquelin. With half an hour to go it was va banque as they say over there in the casino. A hard shot just wide from Özil was immediately followed when Ramsey made his first run forward. Arsenal losing the ball on their half way line but luckily Koscielny and Bellerin could stop Ferreiro.
Ramsey having a shooting chance but he takes on another man and gone is the chance. Monaco getting some more space now to look dangerous . After 71 minutes Walcott came on in the place of Welbeck. A back pass not given as a back pass by the ref.
Arsenal now pressing and pressing but always keeping the ball on the floor. Özil with a magnificent pass to Monreal who crossed it to Walcott whose shot ended up against the post….but the ball then fell kindly in the feet of Ramsey who burried it with a low shot. 0-2 after 78 minutes. Come one more goal!
Alexis being fouled off the ball but the ref let it go. Almost Ramsey again almost with a shooting chance but too many defenders so he couldn’t put a shot in. With 8 minutes to go Gibbs came in the place of Monreal.
Free kick to Arsenal but the header from Giroud is saved on the line by the keeper. 5 minutes of extra time. All pressure on the Monaco goal… would the miracle still happen? A last free kick but it wasn’t to be.
The last minute rush of blood in the first leg has cost us dearly. That was the big mistake we made over the two legs. We should have settled for the not that bad 1-2 result after the goal from Oxlade-Chamberlain. We forgot we had another 90 minutes of football in front of us.
The good thing however is that we played an excellent match at Monaco, completely bossed the whole match and won at the ground of a team that has a strong defensive reputation.
No more worry about the Champions League now. Let us just focus on finishing well in the PL and the Fa cup. Still a lot to play for.