After scoring once in 23 attempts against FC Dynamo Kyiv, Arsenal FC need to be more ruthless.
By Jon Fisher
For so long against FC Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday it looked as though Arsenal FC's perceived shortcomings would see their lengthy run without a UEFA Champions League victory extend to nine games.
Often criticised for not scoring enough 'ugly' goals, Arsenal struggled to break down the Ukrainian side as their hopes of remaining among Europe's élite appeared to be drifting away. But they found an unlikely goalscoring saviour in left-back Ashley Cole to spare Arsène Wenger's blushes and finally move into contention in Group B. Although they remain bottom of the section, Cole's 88th-minute header has, at least, put Arsenal within reach of the top two.
The Highbury crowd may have travelled home happy but it was not a performance likely to strike fear into Internazionale FC, the group leaders and Arsenal's next opponents in Milan in three weeks. The match statistics tell the story - Arsenal enjoyed 61 per cent of the possession and had 23 attempts on goal yet could only muster a solitary goal, and that from a defender. Wenger, though, could point to the fact that Dynamo goalkeeper, Olexandr Shovkovskiy, had a magnificent game.
"It was a bit like a poker game," said Wenger of the opening exchanges. "It was becoming frustrating because we weren't making the most of our opportunities." On too many occasions Arsenal lacked bodies in the box to really trouble Shovkovskiy as the two designated frontmen, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, dropped deep to support the build-up play. Bergkamp has made a career out of dropping off a defender and playing a killer through-ball - when Henry does the same it dramatically reduces the Londoners' options.
Most of the chances Arsenal fashioned came in the second half as they poured forward in search of the opening goal. Shovkovskiy blocked well from Bergkamp after 48 minutes and Robert Pires headed wide when superbly placed after being found by Henry on the right. The Premiership leaders adopted an all-out attacking policy as time ticked by, leaving gaps which Dynamo threatened to exploit.
In the space of three minutes just before the hour, Tiberiu Ghioane was denied by Kolo Touré's last-ditch tackle and Oleg Gusev shot wide with the goal gaping. The narrow escapes only served to fuel Arsenal's desire to win the game, however, and Wenger showed great bravery when replacing midfield duo Fredrik Ljungberg and Ray Parlour with Sylvain Wiltord and Nwankwo Kanu.
Those decisions ultimately paid off as Wiltord sent in a cross which Henry flicked on for the diving Cole to head in. "It is certainly a relief and has given us new hope," said Wenger. "It is now down to us in the final games to make it a turning point." In order to do so, the French manager knows his side will have to improve enormously or face the consequences of elimination in Milan.