Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal penalty was dubious, admits Wenger

Arsene Wenger admitted Arsenal had been somewhat fortunate to see Eduardo win a penalty which set them on the way to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Celtic and into the group stages of the Champions League.

With his team leading 2-0 from the first leg in Glasgow, the opening goal was always going to be crucial.

It came just before the half-hour when Eduardo went down following what looked minimal contact at best from Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc after he skipped into the left side of the box.

It was enough to convince Spanish referee Manuel Gonzalez and Eduardo was certainly not worried by chants of "cheat" from the massed ranks of green behind the goal.

The Croatia striker, set to face England in next month's crucial World Cup qualifier at Wembley, stepped up to send Boruc the wrong way and all but kill off the tie.

Emmanuel Eboue made sure there would be no comeback for Mowbray's side with a neat finish on 53 minutes before substitute Andrey Arshavin slotted in a third.

Celtic midfielder Massimo Donati volleyed home a superb consolation goal in stoppage time.

"From outside I must say it looked a penalty, but having seen it again on television, it doesn't look to be a penalty," the Arsenal manager said.

"But I must still say that we were likely always to score the first goal because Eduardo had a great chance before the penalty and we always looked in control of the game.

"I believe really that it was not a penalty but I am also not sure that the keeper didn't touch him with his right knee, having seen it again.

"I do not want a penalty which is not a penalty, but I do not go as far to say Eduardo dived.

"He went down, for what reason I do not know.

"But I do not think he would have complained if the penalty was not given.

"Is it acceptable? I never asked in my life any guy to dive to win a penalty but sometimes the players go down because there is no other way to escape the tackling of the keeper. Sometimes they dive.

"We got a penalty [against us] two years ago in the quarter-final of the Champions League [at Liverpool] that made the difference when [Ryan] Babel dived, nobody ever apologised to us, it was a blatant dive and nobody spoke about it."

Wenger felt Celtic had put up a brave challenge.

He said: "I believe that Celtic in the two games were well organised, did show some great mental qualities, they never gave up at any moment, and for me, they are a good side.

"Over the two games they were a bit unlucky because in the first game, the free-kick deflected, they were always one behind the score and when there is a technical difference between the two sides, it makes it even harder."

Arsenal now head to Manchester United on Saturday in confident mood after maintaining their 100% start to the new campaign.

However, midfielder Aaron Ramsey picked up a knee injury tonight and may not feature, while Wenger feels captain Cesc Fabregas, out with a hamstring problem, may be "short" for the weekend.

"We are now in the top, top league in Europe, with all the big names," he said.

"Our team tonight was an average age of 23.9 years.

"That means if we can get out of the group stage, then in six months we can be even stronger.

"That is what we want to focus on, to continue to improve our team play, the speed of our game and show that we have made big improvements come Saturday at 5:15.

"I am happy to go to Old Trafford because it is the first big, big test.

"You want always to have a high level of confidence when you go to Old Trafford, we have that at the moment.

"For us it is most important to recover physically because Manchester United did not play in the League Cup tonight."

Belfast Telegraph


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