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Monday, July 15, 2024


    Arsenal 3-1 Man United: Declan Rice nets dramatic 96th-minute winner with his first Gunners goal before Gabrie

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    Somali Magazine 4 September 2023- Score more goals, Declan Rice was told when he moved from West Ham to Arsenal this summer. Score more goals if you want to be mentioned in the same sentence as Graeme Souness, Roy Keane, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and other great midfielders. Fix the one thing that is missing.

    Six minutes of stoppage time had elapsed at the end of Arsenal’s grimly compelling struggle with Manchester United here when Rice, who cost the Gunners £105million, peeled away at the back post and took a deep corner from Bukayo Saka on his chest.

    He had been the game’s best player up to that point. By quite some distance. He looked like the man who was bought to win the title, driving on a team who are fighting not to go backwards after their challenge to Manchester City last season.
    Rice let the ball fall. There was a forest of players between him and the goal. But he realised he had time. Jonny Evans had been prevented from rushing to meet him by a wrestling match with Gabriel. Gabriel was on the turf now but Evans was still yards away.

    ‘The old me would have set that back for a cross,’ Rice, who was still searching for his first goal for his new club, said later. ‘But the last minutes of the game are about fine margins and if you don’t shoot, you don’t score.’

    Rice knew this was probably Arsenal’s last chance to get the win their season so desperately needed to gain momentum and banish doubts. They had just been reprieved by VAR when United thought they had a winner. They had been denied a penalty of their own. They had struggled to reach anything near top gear.

    So Rice put his foot through the ball. Evans got a touch to it and it took it away from Andre Onana in the visitors’ goal. Onana touched it but he could not stop it. The ball nestled in the back of the net. The stadium erupted.

    Rice wheeled away towards the corner flag and took the applause of the crowd. Everyone had told him to score more goals and this was a big one. This was the kind of moment he was bought for. This was the kind of moment he moved for. This was the kind of performance that was expected of him.

    Gabriel Jesus gilded the lily with a third goal — a brilliant solo run and finish — even later into stoppage time, but it was Rice’s strike that took Arsenal beyond United and it was his performance that gave the club’s supporters hope they may strengthen their challenge to City this season.

    It completed a bleak day for United that had started with news the Glazers may have decided not to sell the club after all and ended with more evidence that the progress they made under Erik ten Hag last season appears to have stalled. It feels already as if a difficult season lies ahead at Old Trafford.

    Rice had started the game brilliantly for Arsenal. He was everywhere as he dominated midfield, dispossessed Bruno Fernandes, built patiently and assuredly from the back — the fulcrum of everything. He already looks like an outstanding purchase.

    The presence of Kai Havertz in the Arsenal team has not been met with quite the same enthusiasm. Havertz, who was bought for £65m from Chelsea, has had a difficult start and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta resisted calls to drop him for United’s visit. It feels as if he is already playing under intolerable pressure.

    So it was inevitable that the first chance of the game would fall to Havertz and equally inevitable that he would snatch at it and allow United to escape.

    It came after 13 minutes when Diogo Dalot tried to clear a cross but only succeeded in heading it straight at Anthony Martial. The ball fell to Havertz six yards out and sat up beautifully for him. He swung his left leg at it, flailing and threshing, rather than with any assurance or technique and got only the faintest contact.

    Even then, Arsenal might have scored but as the ball ran on to Eddie Nketiah, it was poked away for a corner by Lisandro Martinez. The crowd groaned at United’s good fortune. Havertz put his head in his hands.

    Arsenal had the better of the play but they could not force more chances and United opened the scoring with their first attack. Poor Havertz gave the ball away with a careless square pass, Christian Eriksen broke from midfield and threaded a fine ball through to Marcus Rashford, who had barely touched the ball until then. Rashford ran at Ben White and William Saliba and, as they retreated, cut inside on to his right foot on the edge of the Arsenal area and curled the ball around them. Aaron Ramsdale got his left hand to the shot but could only push it on to the inside of the post.

    United’s lead lasted barely a minute. Arsenal attacked down the left, Nketiah laid the ball back to Gabriel Martinelli and he played a fine pass across the face of the box into the path of Martin Odegaard. If you can slam a sidefooted shot into the net, Odegaard managed it. Onana had no chance.

    Seeing Martial still in a United shirt feels both like an anachronism and a symbol of United’s failings in the transfer market. If he ever had a purple patch at the club, it was a long, long time ago. But he finally sparked into life 10 minutes after the break when his shot was beaten away by Ramsdale. Rashford pounced on the follow-up but his effort was blocked by Saliba.

    Arsenal thought they had won a penalty just before the hour mark when Havertz burst into the box and went down under a combined challenge from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Casemiro. Referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot but the VAR called him to the screen to review the decision.

    Taylor judged that Havertz had not been touched. Arteta and the Arsenal crowd were furious. Havertz is the player who simply cannot catch a break.

    United’s £72m summer signing from Atalanta, Rasmus Hojlund, came on for Martial midway through the second half to make his debut for the club and made an immediate impact.

    Arsenal should have won the game 10 minutes from the end. A ball from Martinelli found its way to Saka eight yards out with only Onana to beat but Saka hit a tame shot straight at the United goalkeeper, who blocked it with his thigh.

    Arsenal had an escape of their own in the last minute of normal time when substitute Alejandro Garnacho ran on to a through ball and slipped his shot past Ramsdale. VAR showed Garnacho had strayed marginally offside.

    Rice stepped up to get the critical goal and then Jesus sprinted through on the breakaway, sat Dalot down on his backside with a sweet turn and slid the ball past Ramsdale to seal Arsenal’s victory.

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