Posted on March 11, 2009
Arsenal sneaked past Roma 6-7 on penalties in a dramatic Champions League last-16 encounter at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.
The aggregate lead Arsenal took into the match was wiped out nine minutes into the clash thanks to Silveira Juan. A cross along the ground from Francesco Totti went through Rodrigo Taddei’s legs and found Juan at the far post and he had no problem steering it past Manuel Almunia. The goal could have easily been avoided if Kolo Toure or William Gallas had cleared as the cross seemed to go straight past them.
The opening goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Gunners as they struggled to keep the ball and could not create opportunities with Roma dominating play in midfield.
Arsenal were living dangerously towards the end of the opening half, barely avoiding a penalty appeal against them. Gael Clichy brought Marco Motta down in the area but the referee decided not to award the Italian side with a penalty. It was a close call nonetheless and one the London outfit needed to go in their favor.
A corner provided Arsene Wenger’s charges with a decent opportunity after the break but Abou Diaby, who made space for himself, shot the ball inches wide of the post keeping the tie locked at 1-1 on aggregate.
Neither side could score the decisive goal after 90 minutes sending the game into extra-time, where two tired looking sides struggled to break each other’s defense down. Two hours of football failed to separate the sides as the teams started to prepare for the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
The penalties were immediately off to a bad start for Arsenal when Eduardo missed the first spot-kick and Claudio Pizarro slotted his. However, Almunia made a crucial save to put the teams on level pegging once again.
It eventually took eight penalties to separate the sides as the Gunners advanced to the Champions League quarter-finals, joining Premier League rivals Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United in the next round.