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How To Overturn A Thumping Home Defeat

BY PETE ELDON / @peteeldon

Losing to Bayern this week reminded me that better Arsenal teams than this one have had the capacity to be even more outclassed at home by European opposition.

Back in the long distant past when we were a genuine European force and regularly threatened to win any competition we entered (yeah, I am older then you think), we were paired with Internationale of Milan in the group stages of the Champions League.

The season was 2003/4, the season in which we became ‘Invincibles’, a season like no other in the glorious history of the club. But the Champions league campaign had got off to a far from invincible start with 1 point from the first 3 matches which included a 3-0 home drubbing to Inter.

That game, played on the evening of my son’s 11th birthday, saw us played off the park. Not a great birthday present, that one. It was already 0-2 when TH14 missed a penalty and I seem to remember a young Obefemi Martins running us ragged before scoring their third goal before half-time (we must rank pretty highly in his list of career highlights?).

So we entered the second round of group games needing to win every game to stay in the competition. Home against Dynamo Kiev, that nice Ashley Cole scored a late winner that not only kept us alive but provided one of those pivotal footballing moments when everyone suddenly realises  ‘hang on – we can do this!’

And of course, in the league we were still unbeaten and not looking like losing anytime soon. So it was off to Milan to play Inter at the San Siro, and to anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of visiting the Giuseppe Meazza Stadium then you really need to go – it’s one of those special football places.

My mate Steve and I flew into Milan mid-morning on match day. We hit the city centre and desperate not to succumb to the big McDonalds near the Duomo, found ourselves a typically Italian hostelry where we spent an afternoon on pasta washed down with beer, vino, and grappa. As with any good Euro away trip, when we rolled out several hours later to hit the subway and make our way to the stadium with the 5,000 or so Gooners in Milan that night, I seemed to have someone else’s legs on and was incapable of repeating my own name.  Damn that grappa.

But arriving at the San Siro and seeing that stadium all lit up in the middle of the park was sobering enough. There had been a few scuffles along the way too, and with kick-off time approaching things were starting to get serious.

The first thing you notice inside San Siro is the height and steepness of the stands. That, and the fencing that makes it feel like a detention centre for violent offenders. The teams came out and Patrick Vieira wasn’t playing (suspended I think) and we had Pascal Cygan at the back up against Christian Vieri and Martins, so not exactly full strength and the rain was bucketing down too which didn’t help.

We started a bit wobbly but took the lead when TH14 was on the end of a well worked goal, before Vieri scored with a horribly deflected shot, but 1-1 at the break seemed about right and we were well in it.

But the second half was very different. Through my grappa induced headache from hell, even I could see that we were taking charge. Freddie put us ahead just after the break and a few chances followed as the game opened up – Inter had to chase it now.

We couldn’t get a third to kill them off though. That was until TH14 scored a TH14 special, beating a couple of players on the run and hitting a shot into the corner to make it 1-3. Then it all got a bit silly to be honest. Edu scored a fourth and Pires a fifth in the last few minutes, and the score board said

Inter 1-5 Arsenal

Most people were laughing at the end. You don’t score 5 against Inter on their turf; it just doesn’t happen and it all seemed very surreal.  I had got split up from Steve as we’d entered the ground and we’d ended up in different blocks, so our reunion after the game was a wide eyed ‘can you believe what you’ve just seen?’ moment.

And there, right outside the stadium as if sent by God, was a McDonalds and there was no mucking about this time. It was straight in to celebrate, and in some style I might tell you.

Anyway, why regurgitate this old tale now? Maybe because it shows that losing badly at home in the Champions League this week doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an irretrievable situation, despite what it looks like right now. Bayern away? We only need 3.

(OK, so we don’t have TH14, Pires, Ljungberg, Campbell,  Edu, Kanu, Cole, Parlour etc.... I know, I know. But there’s always hope - and Gervinho. C’mon the Arse!)

Reader Comments (1)

Happy memories - raining for most of the day, sitting in the bar outside the stadium, getting drunk, going into the stadium, one I had long to go for years, seeing my team play really well, ignoring the 1 1/2hrs wait inside afterwards, getting back to my hotel to be congratulated by some Danish geezer.

Oh, and did I say that we won, too!

Great trip.

February 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter@mikeymike2711
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