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Another night for Wenger to savour

Published: Wednesday 10 March 2004, 23.30CET
Arsène Wenger saluted Arsenal FC's "fantastic" winning run as RC Celta de Vigo's campaign ended at Highbury.
Published: Wednesday 10 March 2004, 23.30CET

Another night for Wenger to savour

Arsène Wenger saluted Arsenal FC's "fantastic" winning run as RC Celta de Vigo's campaign ended at Highbury.

By Trevor Haylett in London

A place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for only the second time was an accomplishment for Arsenal FC and their supporters to savour at Highbury but manager Arsène Wenger insists that a glance at the record books should make everyone at the club "feel humble again".

Ambitious outsiders
Wenger says that his team should not be considered favourites to be crowned European champions in May. "If you look at the records, Real Madrid [CF] have won it nine times and [AC] Milan six times and we are at zero," he said. "But we are happy there [in the draw] and we have our chance. Let's see who we get on Friday and go for it."

Sparkling show
It was another sparkling show as they built on their first-leg advantage over RC Celta de Vigo with two goals before half-time. It made it five successive Champions League wins - a club record and a vast turnaround in form because in the previous eight games they had not managed a single victory.

Nerves overcome
"Having lost games at the start of the season it is fantastic that we could win game after game," Wenger added. "Maybe we were too nervous before, too much in a hurry to make the difference and score three times early on."

'Great moments'
Wenger felt the tie was won in Spain with Arsenal's 3-2 first-leg victory. "When we scored our second you felt that Celta felt that they had lost the chance to qualify," he said. "There were some great moments in the game but maybe not the emotional highs because we always felt we were secure in the game."

Cool Henry
Arsenal created enough chances to have won by some distance and, inevitably, it was Thierry Henry who showed the coolest head, driving through the legs of Pablo Cavallero, and then taking advantage at the far post when Fredrik Ljungberg's cross was glanced to him.

Record mark
He might have scored a hat-trick but Cavallero came to the rescue. As it was, those two goals were enough for Henry to overtake Jean-Pierre Papin and become the most prolific French marksman in European club football, his tally now reading 39.

Bergkamp hurt
His first was brilliantly set up by Dennis Bergkamp who took a heavy blow in the ribs following a collision with the goalkeeper. "We don't think anything is broken but Dennis looks shocked physically and has stud marks on his chest," said Wenger.

Celta blows
Celta, the last of the three remaining Champions League debutants to depart the tournament this week following VfB Stuttgart and Real Sociedad de Fútbol, had few clear chances but Mauricio Pinilla aimed a free header wide of the target in the final minutes. Visiting coach Radomir Antic was not helped by injuries which forced off both Peter Luccin and Sylvinho. Then with 16 minutes remaining substitute Pablo Contreras was dismissed after a second yellow card.

Antic worried
"We have to recognise that we were up against a team that proved its quality in all phases of the game," Antic, whose side are fighting relegation in the Primera División, said. "We cannot object, the team has done as well as it could but the number of defeats is worrying. We know what we have to do from now on."

Praise for victors
Antic believes Arsenal are one of the "big favourites" to win the trophy, saying: "They are good physically and technically and they are a very balanced team. They are playing now with a lot of confidence which is normal given their position in the league."

Last updated: 11/03/04 12.14CET

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