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Wenger claims the upper hand

Published: Thursday 25 March 2004, 0.58CET
Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger said his side have "the psychological edge" over Chelsea FC.
Published: Thursday 25 March 2004, 0.58CET

Wenger claims the upper hand

Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger said his side have "the psychological edge" over Chelsea FC.

By Trevor Haylett in London

Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger said his team were forced to show a great deal of character to emerge on level terms from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final with Chelsea FC, an outcome which leaves the Highbury side as favourites to go through having scored the crucial away goal.

Rare header
After Eidur Gudjohnsen had demonstrated superb anticipation and awareness to fire Chelsea ahead early in the second half, Arsenal were left rocking. The home team attacked with both passion and penetration in that spell and it so nearly saw them go further ahead as Frank Lampard and then Gudjohnsen had shots saved. Then Arsenal went and punctured Chelsea's soaring confidence with an equaliser at the other end through a rare Robert Pires header.

'Patience required'
"We needed to show a lot of patience for ten minutes," said Wenger. "The goal gave Chelsea a big lift and they had one or two other opportunities. It was a big blow to us and we needed to show our character to survive. We did well to show our patience also. We knew it was important to score and to come back to 1-1 is a good result for us.

'Good opportunity'
"Are we favourites to go through now? I don't worry about that, all that concerns me is that we will try to win the game at Highbury. We have a good opportunity to do it. We do have the psychological edge now. You could see that when it got to 1-1 it was a big blow for Chelsea."

'End-to-end game'
However, Arsenal defender Sol Campbell cautioned against too much Arsenal confidence when he warned: "There is still a lot of football to be played in the tie. The game was end-to-end and from the neutral's point of view the 1-1 scoreline is a good result."

'High line'
Wenger said that Jens Lehmann "felt bad" about the goal which had Chelsea dreaming they could at last break Arsenal's long sequence of superiority over them, a run that now extends to 17 games. "The question is whether he should have come for the ball or not but we try to play a high line and to get him to take a high position as well. Sometimes that is the price you pay," added the Arsenal manager. "Having seen it again on television I think Gudjohnsen did very well in that situation."

Wenger tribute
Wenger went on to pay tribute to Chelsea, saying they had "played well and defended well" but Claudio Ranieri's disappointment at the result was clear. "We took our chance and played some good football and maybe we deserved to score a second goal," said the Chelsea manager. "But then we went and conceded at the other end."

'Half-chance converted'
Gudjohnsen said that Chelsea had defended well and it was disappointing that "the one half-chance Arsenal got they put away". But he added: "We have every chance in the second leg and the belief has got to be there in the team."

Ranieri reshuffle
Ranieri will have to plan for the return game in two weeks' time without Marcel Desailly, who received two yellow cards in quick succession. It makes Chelsea's task more difficult and improves Arsenal's chances of booking their first-ever place in the semi-finals of this competition.

Last updated: 25/03/04 13.45CET

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