Valencia CF were reduced to ten men but did enough to hold Arsenal FC to a goalless draw at Highbury in a thrilling game lit up by the heroic goalkeeping of the visitors' stand-in custodian Andrés Palop.
Visitors stay strong
Arsenal registered ten shots on target in the match as the home team, especially through Dennis Bergkamp and Fredrik Ljungberg, created a wealth of chances, but even after Miguel Angulo's sending-off 18 minutes from the end, Valencia - and Palop - refused to buckle.
Key players return
Both sides were able to welcome back key attacking inspirations who missed their club's respective Matchday 7 games. Arsenal fielded Bergkamp, who did not fly to Rome for the Londoners' 3-1 win two weeks ago, while Pablo Aimar returned from injury to partner John Carew in attack for Valencia. Both teams also had new goalkeepers; Arsenal welcoming David Seaman back from injury, but the visitors having lost Santiago Cañizares to knee ligament damage. Palop, though, deputised to superb effect.
Attacking from the outset
The English and Spanish champions had earned their recent success through flowing, attacking football, and that was clear to see from the outset. In the opening seconds, Angulo, scorer of Valencia's late equaliser against AFC Ajax a fortnight ago, sent a cross into the Arsenal box that only just eluded Aimar and Carew. On ten minutes, Bergkamp signalled his intent with a perfectly weighted chip to Thierry Henry, but his first touch took the ball straight to Palop.
As the half wore on, Carew looked Valencia's biggest threat with his strong breaks, but the goalscoring opportunities fell to Arsenal, Bergkamp and Henry forcing saves from Palop and Ashley Cole twice shooting wide from just inside the box. However, Patrick Vieira limped off late in the half to be replaced by Ray Parlour.
Chances came thick and fast in the opening minutes of the second period as both teams came out determined to attack. First Carew sent a shot flying across the face of goal after being sent through by Aimar, but moments later Palop saved well following a sublime piece of skill from Ljungberg, who pirouetted and shot in one movement.
Palop then produced a vital diving stop to keep out a Bergkamp header from Henry's high cross but Valencia were put under even more pressure when Angulo received a straight red card for elbowing Pascal Cygan right in front of referee Kim Milton Nielsen.
Immediately, Ljungberg forced Palop to save yet again as Arsenal attempted to make their extra man count. Aimar was replaced by defender Carlos Marchena ten minutes from the end but chances arrived at both ends. In added time, Marchena cleared off the line from fellow substitute Sylvain Wiltord following Palop's typically brave block from another replacement, Nwankwo Kanu, and immediately Sol Campbell similarly denied Carew. Somehow, however, the game ended goalless.