WTTGT Reporter: Tashan Deniran-Alleyne
Arsenal 1 – 0 Udinese
Arsenal kicked off their Champions League campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 first-leg win against Serie A side Udinese, but they struggled to build on the early goal given to them by Theo Walcott.
With Samir Nasri and new captain, Robin van Persie suspended, Arsenal also made two changes to the team that drew 0-0 with Newcastle at the weekend, with Walcott and Marouane Chamakh coming into the team in place of Andrei Arshavin and the Dutchman.
It took only 4 minutes for the gunners to take the lead through the England international as he turned in Aaron Ramsey’s cross, which settled all nerves inside the Emirates. But as the first 45 minutes wore on the more Udinese started to control the game and created chances to snatch a precious away goal. Antonio Di Natale saw his free-kick come back of the crossbar while Pablo Armero forced Wojciech Szczesny into a smart save. Arsenal managed to get to half-time one up but were by no means comfortable.
The second half started with one way traffic as Udinese stepped up the pressure with half-time substitute Johan Djourou producing a fantastic last-ditch tackle to deny Di Natale from equalising, the Italian again called Szczesny into action by forcing him to parry away his free-kick. Arsenal were struggling to retain possession in midfield whilst Chamakh offered little up front and Udinese continued to expose the much talked about defensive weaknesses the home team have.
With the minutes ticking away Walcott had two chances to increase the lead, but missed timed his first effort and saw the Udinese goalkeeper produce a superb save to deny him in injury time. It was a surprise the Arsenal defence managed to keep their second clean sheet in a row, but it could prove to be vital.
So Arsenal take a slender advantage to Italy next week and will need to dig in again if they are to stand any chance of progressing in to the group phase of the UEFA Champions League.