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Away Day Delight

BY SIMON SMITH / @elmigored

I've been supporting the Arsenal thanks to my brother’s influence since the early nineties and attended my first game at Highbury during Bruce Rioch’s reign in 1995. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that I ventured to my first away game.

When we were drawn against AC Milan in the last sixteen of the Champions League, it was destined to be a memorable occasion for all Gooners, but for me it was particularly special. I remember discussing the draw with my brother and deciding there and then to put our newly acquired travel club memberships to good use for the first time.

The first leg came and went; unfortunately I couldn’t get myself a ticket for the home leg. It ended 0-0, but if I remember correctly we could have beaten them at home if it wasn’t for the crossbar thwarting an Adebayor header late on. Leading up to the away leg the papers carried stories about how no English side had ever beaten AC Milan at the San Siro, while the fact that the Italians were the reigning Champions League holders was also rammed home.

As if that wasn’t enough to sow seeds of doubt in my mind about the investment in flights I was making I was also dropped an educational bombshell the week before the game. The day of the match I was scheduled to give a presentation at university for a group project I was working on. I don’t think my tutor was all that believing or impressed with my “I’ll be in Milan that day” response.

The day of the game arrived and to say I was nervous was an understatement, I was skipping an important presentation, wasn’t sure if we could get a result and like my childhood hero, Dennis Bergkamp, I am scared of flying. Unlike the Dutchman however, I will get on a plane and white knuckle a flight whilst praying to any deity that is willing to hear me. Having arrived in Milan safely, the day was spent in the city centre, enjoying a few beers and soaking up the atmosphere.

By the time the game came around, the nerves had gone; partly due to alcohol intake and also to the confidence I garnered from the travelling Arsenal fans in the city centre. Perched high up in the gods of the Giuseppe Meazza, we witnessed one of Arsenal’s greatest European nights. A shaky start soon turned into Arsenal controlling the game with a Cesc shot hitting the crossbar a particular highlight of the first half.

The second half continued in much the same vein with the Gunners dominating possession and looking every bit Milan’s equals. Five minutes from time and Cesc Fabregas strolled through the midfield before arrowing a 30 yard strike into the back of the net. It sent us into delirium. Late into injury time an Olympic sprint from Walcott followed by a perfect cross allowed Adebayor to finish off a dominant performance. The celebrations began in real earnest after that and lasted all the way back on the coach to the airport.

There is one thing I will never forget about this trip (apart from the amazing result and away day camaraderie) - as we were leaving the ground a number of AC Milan stewards and other stadium workers just stood and applauded us. It was a classy gesture and one I’ve yet to witness anywhere else on my subsequent travels.

The next day at university I checked my email, expecting a virtual ear bashing for not attending or to find that I’d have to reschedule my presentation. Instead I was greeted with a B grade; personally I’d have given that day an A+.

Reader Comments (2)

Nice article. Can't help but feel that the stewards applauding you were Inter fans however- this being the San Siro!

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterETaner92

Great read thank you. It was pure torture for me that year because I love both teams so much. But I really wanted Gunners to win that night :)

November 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMadRuskiGunner
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