Arsenal FC confirmed their status as the form team in Europe with a 1-0 win over FC Steaua Bucureşti in Group H of the UEFA Champions League.
Robin van Persie ensured the Premier League leaders' first trip to the Romanian capital was a memorable one, scoring the only goal of the game at the Steaua Stadium after 76 minutes to make it two group wins out of two and extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to 19 games.
In his first UEFA Champions League match since replacing Gheorghe Hagi, Massimo Pedrazzini attempted to counter the technical proficiency of Arsenal by fielding a side packed with his more mobile players, a ploy highlighted by his decision to leave the muscular Victoraş Iacob and Dorel Zaharia on the bench.
The Italian caretaker coach thought his injury-ravaged side had made the perfect start when Nicolae Dica headed a free-kick past Manuel Almunia, but the effort was ruled out for offside. Cesc Fabregas' sparkling form in front of goal has underpinned Arsenal's impressive start to the season but the Spaniard's predatory instincts deserted him on eight minutes when he wasted the best chance of the half, scooping over from close range.
At the other end, Dica sent Almunia sprawling across his goal with a long-range effort on 20 minutes but thereafter it was virtually all Arsenal. With Aleksandr Hleb and Fabregas dictating the tempo of the match from midfield, Arsenal probed away at the Steaua defence as they looked to exploit the centre-half pairing of Ionuţ Rada and Eugen Baciu, who had just one UEFA Champions League appearance between them.
Arsenal's measured approach yielded a chance for Emmanuel Adebayor which he opted to square instead of going for goal while Gaël Clichy, who launched raid after raid down the left flank, saw a 40th-minute cross deflect off Petre Marin and almost carried over the line by Robinson Zapata. The Gunners' eleventh attempt of the half - Steaua enjoyed only four - fell to Mathieu Flamini, the midfield enforcer, but he saw his effort beaten away by Zapata, the only non-Romanian in the Steaua side. In stark contrast, Arsenal fielded just one Englishman in their 16-man squad.
The Colombian's opposite number, Almunia, was grateful for the anticipation of Kolo Touré on 58 minutes, the Ivorian scrambling back behind his keeper to head a long-range effort from Dică off the line. Pedrazzini introduced Iacob on the hour mark and the change almost turned out to be a masterstroke. The 26-year-old pierced the Arsenal offside trap on 71 minutes but his attempt to curl the ball past Almunia and into the far corner drifted wide of the far post.
It proved to be a costly miss as five minutes later Arsenal were in front. Adebayor surged to the by-line and cut the ball back for Van Persie, his strike-partner, to plant it high into the roof of the net for his sixth UEFA Champions League goal.
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