By David Alexander
A record home attendance saw the Gunners power their way to victory
Goals from Tony Adams and Martin Keown, both from set plays, gave us a
deserved victory on a night where patience and power took us to the top of the
Arsenal made the far brighter start, treating Wembley as the adopted home it
is to be on these passionate European nights.
Emmanuel petit summed up the mood in the camp after the win when he
underlined the importance of the win: "It was a very hard game, but we
needed to win.
If we want to go through we had to beat Panathinaikos because they were
the leaders of the group.
"Our organisation was very bad in the first half but they did not have many
chances to score. The way we scored showed that even free kicks are
important these days."
Adams, a constant threat with his height, almost gave the Gunners a
sensational start with a fine header from a Dennis Bergkamp free kick to
send out the warning bells to the Greeks.
Ionnis Goumas had felled Anelka to prompt the free kick and set in motion a
battle with the young French forward he looked destined to lose.
Seven minutes into the game, Anelka passed him again on the right wing,
powering his way into the area and forcing a fine save out of Panathinaikos
keeper Josef Wandzik.
While the wide open spaces of the Wembley pitch were expected to favour
the Greeks, Arsenal seemed to be getting more change out of their flank
play, especially through Marc Overmars.
He set up Emmanuel Petit in the 13th minute, whose delicate pass found the
run of Nigel Winterburn, but the defender shot inches wide of the far post.
While it would be flattering to suggest we were cruising, all the visitors
could manage in the opening stages of the game was a long range shot from
Nikos Liberopoulos which went way over David Seaman's bar.
But despite plenty of Arsenal possession, the openings started to dry up and
one of those speculative shots had to be tipped over by Andreas Lagonikakis
half an hour into the game.
If anything, the Gunners midfield seemed to be intent on diving in. Although
tackles were often skipped by the attacking Greeks, it was their slight of foot
more than anything else which prevented more serious action by the referee.
Still, Keown was unlucky with a volley from an uncleared free kick, and we
still just about had the edge.
And we almost took the lead minutes before half time when Overmars found
himself with only the keeper to beat. His shot was deflected into Anelka's
path and there was a strong call for a penalty and two tumbling Greeks fell
on the ball as it flew towards goal.
Then Manu petit took a quick free kick which sent Bergkamp away, but the
bounce of the ball pulled him wider than he would have liked and his volley
went beyond the far post.
With an almost capacity crowd roaring with delight, the half couldn't come
to an end quickly enough for the Greeks, while we went from strength to
We started the second half sluggishly, prompting Arsene Wenger to start
and shout orders at the players.
There seemed to be no direction until the deadlock was broken in the 65
Adams' goal was typical of our potency set plays. Garde won a corner which
Petit floated into the danger area. Keown challenged Wandzik, Vieira poked
it across the six yard line and Adams powered it home.
It gave the Gunners a second wind, and Adams almost scored a second with
a back post header from another swinging Bergkamp free kick.
The Dutchman almost got on the score-sheet himself with a scorching shot
and Overmars forced Wandzik into a great save with a 20 yard shot.
But from the subsequent corner, again from Petit, Keown glanced the ball
towards the back post and there was nothing the keeper could do.
Overmars almost made it three minutes from time when a delicate chip put
him through but Wandzik rushed out and smothered the ball.
The Greeks made it a tense end to the game with a goal from sub Mauro
from Aljosa Asasonic's free kick, but there was still time for Anelka to be
hauled down and prompt a booking for the hapless Goumas.
Vieira was also booked, putting him out of the next game, which will be a
bitter blow to our chances.
But as Petit, who was also booked, observed: "We have some very good
players to come in. I must also be careful now and I hope I can get through
the next few games without getting a second card."
Let's hope that sloppy goal doesn't make the difference between qualifying
and not going through.
But it was undoubtedly a night of celebration and these European nights are
what Arsenal is all about. We're top of the group - let's stay there.