Arsenal's slim dream expires in cloud of Norwegian blues; Valencia 1 Arsenal 0 2-2 on agg: Valencia win on away goals.
Arsenal's rocky Champions League adventure ended after Valencia's Norwegian striker John Carew thumped home a header 16 minutes from time.
The Gunners made a useful fist of hanging onto a slender advantage gained by a two-goal burst from a goal down at Highbury two weeks ago, but their fate was sealed by a bad away result.
And the goal that beat them, from a man whom Arsene Wenger once considered signing, was one they would never expect to concede.
When Jocelyn Angloma crossed from the right, it looked meat and drink for Arsenal skipper Tony Adams. But the old trouper was caught out and Carew rose unopposed to despatch only his second goal in the Champions League campaign.
For more than three-quarters of the match Arsenal had dug in resolutely in defence and gradually found the confidence to play flowing, confident football without really threatening.
Wenger pinpointed the lack of a cutting edge for their plight.'There is so much frustration because we know we should have qualified here, he said. 'We defended well but too deep for the first 25 minutes. The problem was that we could not finish it off. We did not have the killer touch.'
That Carew was the scorer was a complete irony as the big Norwegian had looked little more than a carthorse for most of the night. He missed a glaring opportunity in the 16th minute when bursting through a malfunctioning offside trap and after midfielder Vicente set him up perfectly eight minutes later, the striker's mis-hit gave David Seaman the chance to push the ball away for a corner.
Having survived those scares, there seemed no particular reason why the Gunners should not at least hold out for a 0-0 draw.
Lauren and Patrick Vieira worked slavishly in midfield and martin Keown, despite an early booking that disqualifies him from the next European tie, and Adams, stuck at it at the back.
None could quite match the stylish display of 20-year old England left-back Ashley Cole, a player mature beyond his years, efficient in defence and a potent threat going forward when he linked with Thierry Henry and Robert Pires.
The Gunners rarely threatened in attack, though, with Henry missing their best chance when firing into the side-netting on the end of Sylvain Wiltord's pass in the 61st minute.
But it could have been a different outcome had Danish referee Kim Nielsen given a good-looking penalty claim just seconds into the second half when Fredrik Ljungberg, on as a half-time substitute for Ray Parlour, went tumbling over Amedeo Carboni's rash challenge.
To be fair, Valencia could have had a spot-kick of their own when Keown floored the elusive Gaizka Mendieta in the 66th minute. But Carew's headwork finally proved decisive and Arsenal had to reflect on the fact that they have travelled badly this season in Europe, winning only twice.
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|Publication:||The Birmingham Post (England)|
|Date:||Apr 18, 2001|
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