After finally winning in Group B, Arsène Wenger believes Arsenal FC's qualification hopes are "still alive".
By Trevor Haylett in London
Arsenal FC live to fight another day in the UEFA Champions League after a late and dramatic Ashley Cole winner brought relief to his team and to manager Arsène Wenger, who said that the pursuit of a first victory in the competition after a long and fruitless run had become "an obsession".
The English side remain at the foot of Group B but they believe a corner has been turned with the 1-0 victory against FC Dynamo Kyiv. They now set out for Milan in three weeks' time and the return game with Internazionale FC confident they can still claim a place in the knockout stages. "I kept the belief because the boys gave everything," said Wenger. "We fought to get the win we wanted so deeply. We are still alive in a very tight group."
Victory at the ninth time of asking and for the first time at home in the Champions League in seven attempts was only secured with two minutes remaining when Cole dived to head in a ball which Thierry Henry had nodded on from Sylvain Wiltord's cross. It was Cole's first in the competition and he said afterwards that he had been the target of some ribbing following previous failures.
'Meant a lot'
The jeers turned to cheers, though, as the goalscorer was mobbed by ecstatic team-mates who had begun to fear that the first win was still going to prove elusive. "It meant a lot to me and the team," said Cole. "We needed to win. With the team we have here we should be pushing on in the Champions League and hopefully with our team spirit we can now get over the next hurdle."
It was an absorbing contest that brought a flood of chances from start to finish but which, until the 88th minute, was devoid of an assured touch in front of goal. Dynamo showed no reluctance to come forward and early in the second half they should have profited from two gilt-edged chances. Maksim Shatskikh first failed to turn in a low centre before Tiberiu Ghioane passed when the selfish option was the better one.
Against that Arsenal could single out a Dennis Bergkamp miss at the start of the second period and an off-target header from Robert Pires with the goalkeeper stranded. They were also cursing the defiance of Olexandr Shovkovskyi who showed bravery and smart anticipation in dashing from his line to foil Henry and Fredrik Ljungberg.
When time was running out many in the crowd had begun to lose faith; not, though, the manager. "I was hoping and believing," said Wenger. "It was frustrating because we did not get the openings but Ashley is a fighter. He used to be a winger and knows where to be in the box."
Dynamo coach Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko concurred but added that his team, who remain in third place with five points, had missed a big opportunity. "We were clearly missing something, we lacked concentration," he said. "The goal was a positional mistake and it cost us the game. We're disappointed with the result, but we can still break out of this group. But it's going to be harder now."