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Friday, 23 December 2011

Benayoun supplies the perfect Christmas present-Villa away, 21/12/11

Well, what a start to the Christmas programme! Another 3 points, making it 25 out of the last 30. Not too shabby at all. My journey up was fairly simple; a friend and I were driven by my personal chauffeur (also known as my father) which took around 3 hours. En route, we stopped off at a service station and satisfied my unrelenting desire for a KFC. As we were leaving, I bumped into the legendary supporter, Bully, whose middle name is Arsenal. A nod of respect ensued. I nodded too.

Upon arrival at Villa Park, I had to meet a friend to collect my tickets. Echoes of 'he scores when he wants' guided me to the away end, and when we got in, it was almost kick off.

At times, the game was very frustrating. We found it difficult to keep possession, with one too many misplaced passes-Frimpong a major culprit. One can't ignore the role Villa had to play in this. After their abject performance against Liverpool last week, they had a point to prove and the Villa Park faithful were right behind them. In contrast, Arsenal, brilliant against Man City, were distinctly average against the Midlands club. Just shows the unpredictable nature of football; we play well and lose one day, but win playing poorly the next!

Me and my dad
Those of you who were not at the game will not have seen the two glorious chances we squandered soon after we got our first, as Match of the Day did not show them. A sublime RVP pass sent Walcott clear but his lofted attempt failed to beat the onrushing keeper. Then Ramsay was put through in the middle but sliced horribly wide. A real lack of composure from the Welshman, who you feel is due a goal sooner or later. After that you thought 'here we go, we're going to rue those misses'. Despite this, the Arsenal section were making all the noise in the first half, resulting in the chant, 'you're supposed to be at home!' directed at the Villa fans.

When Albrighton capitalised on some indecisive defending by Mertesacker to equalise, I was very worried we'd concede another and lose the game. The atmosphere had swayed and the home crowd were in full voice. An amusing chant from the home section nearest to us was, 'we scored a goal, we scored a goal, how sh*t must you be, we scored a goal!'
Laughing Gooners acknowledged this with a brief moment of applause. However, as against Chelsea, we pulled through-in dramatic circumstances.

As Arshavin's shot deflected off the defender for a corner, I said to my dad that surely, by the law of averages, we are going to score from one of our umpteen corners - of which we had 15 in total. Then something bizarre occurred. I got my iPhone out, ready to video the 87th minute corner, when a steward aggressively points at me, stating I'm not allowed to video. Yes - I kid you not. I put it down and Yossi Benayoun promptly scored, sparking scenes of delirium among the travelling Gooners. Choruses of 'Nananananana, Yossi Benayoun, Benayoun, Yossi Benayoun!' rang out from the ecstatic fans, who were jumping up and down, going mental. 

However, this is Arsenal, so with 3 minutes plus stoppage time remaining, I was pretty anxious. Thankfully Villa's 'final push', so to speak, was fairly weak, and we held on. What a relief it was when the final whistle went, and the party atmosphere resumed! 

Gooners got in the festive spirit with, 'Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to see, the Arsenal win away, eh!' which was sung throughout, but most enjoyably and comfortably at full time! Villa Park also had the honour of being the birthplace of the new John Terry carol: 'Away in a police cell, no WAG in his bed, the little John Terry regrets what he said!' Kudos to whoever made that one up - beats the original! 

From the 6 away games I've been to this season, we've won 4 and lost 2. I think it's fair to say there's nothing in between so far for me this year! I've no qualms with that, it's what makes following Arsenal so enjoyable for me, especially as we win more than we lose! Villa was great fun, as you'd predict after an 87th minute winner, and with our next two away games at Fulham and Swansea, a further six points are certainly achievable.

Celebrating at full time

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