By Trevor Haylett at Highbury
An 88th-minute goal from Ashley Cole kept alive Arsenal FC's chances of progressing from UEFA Champions League Group B as the London side chalked up their first win of the campaign, a slender triumph against FC Dynamo Kyiv.
Arsenal supporters arrived for the game in a state of some apprehension and nothing they witnessed in the opening minutes assuaged them of their unease. While their team attacked with full-blooded intent, a strong impression in the first quarter was created by the way Dynamo broke away and the numbers they were able to get into threatening positions around the penalty area.
One such raid after five minutes demanded a thrilling challenge from Sol Campbell to prevent a goal. Maksim Shatskikh, the Uzbekistani international, was preparing to apply a finishing touch to a ball that Valentin Belkevich had played in low from the left, when Campbell lunged in to effect a magnificent tackle.
Arsenal wasted no time contemplating their escape, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires combining to slice Dynamo apart down the left. The cross from Pires found Fredrik Ljungberg arriving at speed and his desperate attempt to turn it in at the near post might have been rewarded had the ball not made contact with Olexandr Shovkovskyi's trailing leg.
After Dennis Bergkamp had found Ljungberg with a wonderfully incisive pass, a chance that the Swedish midfield player wasted with a shot that was always likely to founder on the tightness of the angle, Arsenal had to endure a period when their play was continually broken up. If that was frustrating they responded in the right way and began to demand that Shovkovskyi show his worth.
Two sprints from his line that foiled first Henry and then Ljungberg after they had pierced the defensive cover were examples of the keeper's bravery and anticipation. The custodian was not so sure when the ball was knocked high into the air, however. Gilberto beat him to a corner and was disappointed not to steer his header into the net.
More alarming for the visitors was when a Pires corner was allowed to travel all the way to the far post where Ljungberg directed it towards the net. Shovkovskyi was beaten but the sweeper Goran Gavrancic came to Dynamo's rescue with a smart piece of improvisation.
The chances kept arriving after half-time. Bergkamp spurned a great opportunity after Henry had nodded on a high ball. The Dutch striker, normally so decisive, put his shot straight at Shovkovskyi. Then when Henry rounded the keeper, Pires had the whole goal to aim for but headed wide.
Then two glittering opportunities arrived for the visitors, the best of the night so far. Shatskikh appeared to have a simple task to turn in a low centre but inexplicably appeared not to have read the situation. Oleg Gusev was then dismayed after a sustained attack had ended with Tiberiu Ghioane squaring a pass across goal to where a gaping net presented itself for Gusev; he missed the target.
As the second half wore on, the home side became increasingly desperate and Shovkovskyi made another sparkling save to tip a piledriver from distance over his crossbar. But Cole's goal, a stooping header from Wiltord's cross and Henry's flick, brought a mixture of joy and relief to the home team and their supporters. Arsenal still sit bottom of Group B - but their chances of progressing were very nearly snuffed out.