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Pizza Cake

by | 23rd, May 2005

‘IT was a familiar tale at the Millennium Stadium last weekend as an Englishman took a penalty kick and a German made the save that mattered.

Springtime for Lehmann

Not that even an Arsenal so bereft of their usual attacking flair could lay claim to any kind of Teutonic masterplan.

Sure they set out to stifle United’s play, but the Cardiff woodwork was as much responsible for Arsenal keeping a clean sheet as Arsenal’s stultifying five-man midfield.

Jens Lehmann was the one outstanding player in red and white. Even at the end of the match, with penalties loomed large, he kept his concentration.

Was it luck that he saved where United’s Roy Carroll could only fling himself at thin air? While the United keeper was being wished the luck of the Irish and the best of British by his teammates, there was Lehmann, a lone figure lying on the grass, locked in concentration.

Having been kept the busier of the two keepers (Carroll was only called to make a single save during the match proper), Lehmann’s hands were warmed to the challenge.

(By the time the players had left the pitch, Arsenal fans were arguing that if it hadn’t been for Rooney’s shooting, Lehmann would not have been so focused, and their team would never have won.)

Meanwhile, Carroll might have just stepped from the bench, or given the anaemic look on his pasty face, the bathroom.

What happened next is so much history: Arsenal won the 2005 FA Cup; it was the first Cup Final to be decided by an American-style shoot-out (at least Malcolm Glazer would have understood that part of the match); and it was he first Cup Final to end goalless since the Titanic sailed in 1912.

It was also cruel luck on United. But then, that’s not the first time in history the better team on the day has played and lost. Arsenal fans need only look back to 2001 against Liverpool to know that.

But the defeat will still sit badly with Alex Ferguson, who has presided over another season with no trophies. Sure, United will come back stronger and refocused next season – what team won’t? – but Fergie will be another year older, another season past his prime.

But should we feel sorry for United. The question was put to Robin van Persie, Arsenal’s feisty Dutch striker.

His answer to the BBC’s man on the spot was unequivocal: “No.” If Van Persie had wanted to endear himself any more to Arsenal’s supporters, he could not have chosen his words better.

But his answer was not designed to please and curry favour, just to show that to fans and players on the winning team, it doesn’t matter how you win, so long as you do.

And, in any case, Arsenal were always going to win. Well, they did have a German in goal…

Paul Sorene’

Posted: 23rd, May 2005 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink