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Almunia rues minutes of madness

Published: Thursday 18 May 2006, 17.53CET
Arsenal FC's substitute goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was left to regret the short spell that cost his side their dream of winning the UEFA Champions League.
by Andrew Haslam
from Paris

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Published: Thursday 18 May 2006, 17.53CET

Almunia rues minutes of madness

Arsenal FC's substitute goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was left to regret the short spell that cost his side their dream of winning the UEFA Champions League.

Arsenal FC's reserve goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was left to rue a five-minute spell that cost his side the UEFA Champions League trophy as FC Barcelona scored two late goals to take the honours in Paris.

Lehmann replacement
The 29-year-old Spaniard came on after 18 minutes at the Stade de France, replacing Jens Lehmann after the German was sent off for bringing down Samuel Eto'o just outside his area. Almunia was philosophical about the way his sixth UEFA Champions League appearance of the season had come about, telling uefa.com: "Jens's dismissal was, of course, very unfortunate but when a player breaks clear with only the goalkeeper to beat, that's the risk you face. I did not think too much when I had to come on, I didn't get much time. I simply focused on Ronaldinho and the free-kick he was about to take."

'Calm and relaxed'
Having watched that set-piece whistle past the woodwork, Almunia went on to produce a largely assured performance and made an outstanding save, tipping Eto'o's shot against the post in first-half added time after the Cameroonian had again unlocked the Arsenal back line. "I was quite calm and relaxed, and everything went quite well," said Almunia, who saw Sol Campbell head the English team into a 37th-minute lead. "When it started to rain Barcelona got a slight advantage as it allowed them to play quicker."

'In our hands'
A man down, Arsenal were always going to find it tough to hold out and they were eventually undone in the final 15 minutes, as Almunia was left exposed and powerless to prevent first Eto'o and then Juliano Belletti striking to take the trophy to Catalonia for the second time. "We were a bit tired in the last 30 minutes and Barcelona put us under pressure with their quality players," the goalkeeper reflected. "We've had a great season but in the end, we did not quite make it. We had the victory in our hands and we spoiled it in ten minutes."

Last updated: 19/05/06 8.46CET

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