Valencia CF coach Rafael Benítez has grown accustomed to victory in the UEFA Champions League this season - but admitted after his side's draw with Arsenal FC that it gave him "great satisfaction" to have earned a point at Highbury in Group B.
The home side kept his team under constant pressure, especially after Miguel Angulo was sent off 18 minutes from the end. Goalkeeper Andrés Palop, deputising for the injured Santiago Cañizares, justified his selection with some stunning saves which impressed Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, whose side now top the group with four points, the same tally as AFC Ajax.
Benítez's players themselves attacked throughout, John Carew having a shot in added time cleared off the line by Sol Campbell, but unlike a fortnight ago against Ajax, when Valencia dominated but had to settle for a draw - and then thanks only to an added time Angulo equaliser - this time a similar result was to their liking.
'A wonderful team'
Benítez said: "
Arsenal are a wonderful team, it gives me great satisfaction that we got the point. Despite the problems we had tonight we managed to get the point - and at the end we could have won it."
But the same goes even more for Arsenal, who both before and after Angulo's dismissal for swinging an arm at Pascal Cygan had a string of chances. Moments before Carew's late near-miss, substitutes Nwankwo Kanu and Sylvain Wiltord both could have won the game. Kanu's close-range effort was blocked by Palop and Wiltord's follow-up was eventually hit straight at Valencia substitute Carlos Marchena on the line, the defender gratefully clearing.
Fredrik Ljungberg, along with Dennis Bergkamp probably the pick of Arsenal's players, said: "Wiltord had a brilliant chance, maybe he thought he had a shorter time than he had and he rushed things." The Swede, who himself was denied by Palop after a superb turn and shot in the box, added: "
We gave a good fight. I am disappointed we did not win but we will have to try and win in Valencia instead. I came a bit close, maybe I should have passed it or chipped it. It could have been a nice goal but was not to be."
Impressed by Palop
None the less, Wenger, like his opposite number, was pleased by his team's showing. "It was a good performance," said the Frenchman. "We looked solid defensively and dangerous going forward. Our team deserve a lot of credit - and also the Valencia goalkeeper, who looked very sharp tonight."
''Two top teams'
And Wenger echoed the feelings of all that saw this pulsating encounter, which had everything bar goals, saying: "I think it was an excellent match between two top teams. We are in a very difficult group and every game from now will be decisive. If we continue to play like that we will do very well."
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