Arsenal shine as lights fail in Belgrade


ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger hailed his team after they overcame floodlight failure, a boisterous crowd and two penalties to plunder maximum points with a nervy Champions League triumph in Belgrade.

A power cut plunged dressing rooms into darkness before kick-off and threatened to postpone the game, but play commenced with the stadium only partially illuminated and the Gunners were soon in front.

Goals from Andrey Arshavin, Marouane Chamakh and a first for Sebastien Squillaci secured three points, but 10-man Partizan were level at one stage through Cleo’s penalty and had another chance from the spot late on.

Stand-in goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski saved that penalty and enjoyed a confidence-boosting performance, while teenage midfielder Jack Wilshere dazzled again as Wenger’s side bounced back from Saturday’s defeat.

“For us it was important to win straight away after a big disappointment against West Brom. It puts us in a good position confidence wise,” said Wenger.

“Fabianski had a good game, we have seen the player tonight who we see in training. He had a faultless game. I know it is in him.”

On the power cut, Wenger added: “I thought it would be terrible to go home and not play. When they asked if I wanted to play with one corner off, I said yes.”

Wenger would not be drawn on whether Fabianski would retain the gloves for Sunday’s crunch trip to Chelsea, and said it was too early to judge the fitness of captain Cesc Fabregas.

They will have Wilshere, however, who set up Arshavin’s 15th-minute strike with an instinctive backheel. Arshavin’s lob was then hooked off the line, while he and Rosicky might both have extended the visitors’ lead before Denilson was ruled to have handballed and Cleo sent Fabianski the wrong way with a penalty.

Arsenal should have retaken the lead 10 minutes after half-time when Chamakh tumbled and Marko Jovanovic was dismissed, but Arshavin’s spot-kick was saved.

But with 20 minutes left Chamakh headed in Rosicky’s cross at the second attempt and Squillaci then nodded his first for the club, before Fabianski saved Cleo’s penalty.