Wenger Uefa row taints welcome lift for Arsenal

ARSENAL 1 vs UDINESE 0

ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger clashed with Uefa chiefs during last night’s Champions League play-off win after appearing to communicate with his bench while serving a touchline ban.

Wenger, who watched Theo Walcott earn a slender first-leg lead from the directors’ box, was shown on television giving orders to coach Boro Primorac, who was in telephone contact with the dugout.

It is understood the Gunners believed Wenger had been given the all-clear to communicate indirectly with assistant Pat Rice, following a meeting with the European governing body on Monday.

But Uefa delegates approached Arsenal officials at half-time and told them Wenger had to stop – and the Frenchman could now find himself facing further punishment before next week’s return leg.

Wenger, who is battling the most difficult few months of his 15-year reign, then chose not to attend his post-match media obligations in what will be seen as a protest against his treatment by Uefa, which could cost him or the club a fine.

The row took further shine from a night in which the Gunners took a tentative step towards the Champions League group stages, and a consequent £25m windfall, but lost defenders Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou to hamstring injuries.

Both have joined a growing list of players likely to miss Saturday’s visit of Liverpool – the last thing Wenger needed after finally losing Cesc Fabregas and seeing Samir Nasri edge ever-closer to the exit.

Those clouds briefly cleared, however, on four minutes when Walcott opened the scoring with a neat sidefoot volley at the near post from Aaron Ramsey’s delicate cross.

That was as good as it got, however, and Arsenal spent much of the rest of the night being overrun in midfield, losing players to injury and repeatedly denying Udinese danger man Antonio Di Natale.

Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny marginally outshone centre-back Thomas Vermaelen with three crucial saves, including one outstanding first-half tip onto the bar from Di Natale’s wickedly curling free-kick, while Djourou and Song both made crucial blocks to deny the Italians almost certain goals.

It took until stoppage time for Arsenal to threaten again, but Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic’s lightning reflexes denied Walcott after Gervinho’s mesmerising cross-field dribble.