Freddie fires Gunners to win
By Tom Adams. Last Updated: 27/09/05 9:35pm
Arsenal capitalised on Freddie Ljungberg's early opener as they overcame Ajax 2-1 to maintain their 100 percent record in the UEFA Champions League.
The win was far from emphatic but Arsene Wenger 's side will be glad to take any kind of an away victory in what has become their bogey competition.
The Gunners were improved from their lacklustre last-minute win over FC Thun, and opened the game in style as Ljungberg scored within two minutes.
French winger Robert Pires seemingly put the visitors in firm control with a second half penalty although Markus Rosenberg hit back straight away to make the London side sweat for the three points at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Arsenal may have flattered to deceive in Europe under Wenger so far but they do have the honour of scoring the fastest UEFA Champions League goal in history, against Dutch opposition.
The absent Gilberto was the hero against PSV Eindhoven in 2002 and Ljungberg did his best to emulate the Brazilian as he opened the scoring after just 80 seconds.
Urby Emanuelson saw his loose pass collected by Mathieu Flamini and a fluid Arsenal break saw Jose Antonio Reyes bisect the home defence to find his makeshift strike partner.
Ljungberg took his time when one-on-one with keeper Hans Vonk and finished with aplomb as he lifted the ball beyond the reach of a despairing Nourdin Boukhari on the goal-line.
The Gunners continued to press and attack with a high tempo as the half progressed, and the Amsterdam crowd, used to such a rich heritage of intuitive football, grew frustrated as their team struggled to contain the visitors.
Reyes shot weak and wide when well placed and Pires struck a dangerously placed free kick straight at the wall but Arsenal failed to convert their possession into clear opportunities.
Ajax's wide men tried to take the fight to their English opponents and youngster Ryan Babel lashed wildly over before Boukhari took a snapshot that troubled Manuel Almunia.
Ajax's nerves at the back were exposed as youngster Thomas Vermaelen kicked the ball out of Vonk's hands, although they had grown in confidence and should have drawn level just before the break.
Steven Pienaar fed Boukhari and the Moroccan drove at the heart of the Arsenal defence, drawing Almunia, before squaring for his team-mate - however Pienaar shot recklessly over the bar with only Sol Campbell patrolling the goal-line.
Danny Blind's men showed renewed initiative after the break and took the game to the Premiership side as Olaf Lindenberg let the ball run to Babel who lashed a fierce drive from a tight angle that Almunia tipped wide.
The industrious Nigel de Jong also provided a threat from the right as he shot low and hard past Almunia's post, before Ajax suffered a blow when Angelos Charisteas had to be removed after a heavy head-to-head challenge from Kolo Toure.
A frantic two minutes then upped the tempo of the tie when both sides scored, as Arsenal seemingly set up a comfortable finish at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Vonk felled an onrushing Reyes out wide after the Spaniard was played in by Francesc Fabregas, and Pires had no problems dispatching the penalty that followed.
However, Arsenal's joy was cut short in dramatic fashion as the home side hit back straight away through Swedish substitute striker Rosenberg.
Captain Tomas Galasek did the hard work as his superb curling effort from outside the box was tipped onto the post by Almunia, but the glory went to Rosenberg as he beat Campbell to the ball and slotted in on his 23rd birthday.
Pienaar and Rosenberg then had further efforts before Wenger introduced former Ajax trainee Quincy Owusu-Abeyie to replace Reyes, the emerging star symptomatic of the fledgling reserves that Arsenal had to call on to change the momentum of the game.
Ajax continued to search for an equaliser as time ebbed away and Pienaar was showing off his repertoire of skills with a wonderful lofted flick to Lindenberg, although the Dutchman could not control the bouncing ball.
Blind's side finished the stronger but Arsenal took a vital three points from Holland after struggling to live up to the sensational opening gifted them by Ljungberg.
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UEFA Champions League
Tue 27th Sep - Group C
Panathinaikos2 - 1W Bremen
Barcelona4 - 1Udinese
Tue 27th Sep - Group D
Man Utd2 - 1Benfica
Lille0 - 0Villarreal
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