If the unthinkable happens next Wednesday and this turns out to have been the last ever European football match at Highbury, then there can be no more fitting end to the European history of The Home Of Football.
This, like the Real Madrid game a few weeks ago, was the type of match that no-one who was there will ever forget (apart, possibly from the woman behind me who, during half-time, had to ask her friend “what happens when the ball goes off of the pitch?”!).
Juventus are the current Italian champions and champions elect for this season – Arsenal are currently in 6th place in the Premiership and struggling to qualify for the Champions League in 4th place.
Add to that the fact that Patrick Vieira, our talismanic midfielder, captain and engine room, had left in the summer to join the Italians and you will have been forgiven for thinking that this might be a simple victory for Juventus.
OK, so Arsenal had beaten Real Madrid in the previous round but Madrid play the perfect style of football for us, and you can bet that any Italian club would not come to Highbury to actually play football. And they didn’t.
But whereas Bolton have consistently managed to reduce us to their level, resulting in us looking out of our depth against their physical onslaught, we managed to force our flowing, attacking football onto Juventus in a way that I expect many Gooners will wish we could have done in the league this season.
After a scrappy start, some of the football that we played, particularly in the 2nd half, when Hleb, Reyes and Fabregas came on strong, was a joy to watch.
A fantastic Pires tackle won us our first goal, set up for Fabregas by a Theirry Henry pass after Pires’ run.
After that, the Italians looked like a beaten side. Their heads dropped and some very silly tackles started flying in. Camoranesi and Trezeguet were booked and Juventus’ only tactic appeared to be long balls down our left towards Ibrahimovic which Flamini dealt with brilliantly all night.
Once Henry had scored the second, midway through the 2nd half – after Fabregas had run straight through the centre of the Juve defence – the Italian team totally lost it. Camoranesi received his second booking and was sent off, and Zebina decided on the same course of action. Patrick Vieira picked up his customary Highbury yellow card to put him out of the second leg.
The only worry was that we didn’t finish the job there and then. But you can’t complain about beating the Italian champions 2-0!
The entire team was fantastic tonight, bar Gilberto’s distribution (shock, horror). Fabregas ran the 2nd half, Pires, Hleb and Reyes worked extremely hard in the midfield and the defence was absolutely superb – all four of them.
When Thierry Henry is Arsenal’s 9th best player, something has to be going right!
Last season, a former hero of an English club had to watch whilst his old team-mates won the Champions League. It could just be that Patrick Vieira gets to do the same this season. We can but hope.