Arsenal 1-0 Udinese
Arsenal 1 - 0 Udinese
Arsenal started life after Cesc Fabregas with a slender victory over Udinese in the Champions League qualifier first leg at Emirates Stadium.
Theo Walcott's early goal ultimately proved decisive - but Francesco Guidolin's Serie A side deserved at least a draw for their enterprise and will pose a real danger in the return in Italy next Wednesday.
Arsenal, with Fabregas finally reunited with Barcelona and stripped of injured Jack Wilshere, lacked their usual craft and the lively Gervinho was often forced to fight a lone battle up front with newly-appointed captain Robin van Persie suspended.
And Udinese almost took advantage of a disjointed display as they came close to scoring an away goal on several occasions, with veteran skipper Antonio di Natale a constant threat to the Gunners' defence.
Arsenal were fortunate when he hit the woodwork twice in the first half and brought an athletic stop from keeper Wojciech Szczesny, who also saved well from Pablo Armero in the first half, late on as Arsenal were forced to suffer to protect their narrow advantage.
Walcott almost added a second in injury time only to see his close-range shot brilliantly saved by Udinese keeper Samir Handanovic, but such a margin would have been cruel on the Italians.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Arsenal have now won all nine of their Champions League qualifiers.
- Arsenal have won their last 21 home matches in Europe when leading at half time, keeping 15 clean sheets in the process.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger cut an agitated figure as he watched from the stands while serving a touchline ban, and Udinese's celebrations with their fans at the final whistle suggests they are confident of overcoming the deficit at home.
Arsenal's depleted side craved an early goal to lift the spirits with Fabregas gone and Samir Nasri heavily linked with a move to Manchester City and it arrived after four minutes when Walcott applied a perfect near-post finish to Aaron Ramsey's cross.
Udinese settled swiftly after and troubled an Arsenal defence that carried an air of vulnerability that was in sharp contrast to their inventive attacking play.
Di Natale, Serie A's top scorer for the past two seasons, curled a free-kick against the bar before Pablo Armero strode through Arsenal's defence with embarrassing ease on a 50-yard run that ended with Szczesny making a vital block.
Gervinho and Walcott, in front of watching England coach Fabio Capello, were prominent for Arsenal but Udinese grew in confidence and the dangerous Di Natale grazed the outside of the post as the Italians sensed growing anxiety in the Gunners' defence and the crowd.
Johan Djourou came on for Kieran Gibbs, who suffered a hamstring strain, at the interval but he only had time to put in a crucial tackle on Di Natale as he looked poised to equalise before he suffered a similar injury and was replaced by teenage summer signing Carl Jenkinson.
Udinese dominated possession, with Mauricio Isla shooting across the face of goal - but Walcott had a chance to extend Arsenal's advantage with 20 minutes left, only to finish tamely and off target.
The lively Di Natale had Szczesny stretching again to turn away another precise free-kick that was heading for the top corner with 16 minutes left before the final opportunity came and went for Walcott.
Arsenal's pleasure at the final whistle was tinged with relief after an anxious night that left Wenger simply grateful for the victory.
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee signals the end of the game.90:00 +2:18
Free kick awarded for a foul by Laurent Koscielny on Pablo Armero. Antonio Di Natale has an effort direct from the free kick.90:00 +1:12
Effort from outside the penalty box by Pablo Armero goes wide right of the goal.90:00 +0:05
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Save by Samir Handanovic. Corner taken by Yao Gervinho.86:56
Direct free kick taken by Danilo Larangeira.86:56 Substitution
Substitution Almen Abdi is brought on as a substitute for Giampiero Pinzi.86:56
Carl Jenkinson concedes a free kick for a foul on Danilo Larangeira.85:42
Marouane Chamakh concedes a free kick for a foul on Joel Ekstrand. Direct free kick taken by Mehdi Benatia.85:07
Danilo Larangeira gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Yao Gervinho. Alex Song takes the direct free kick.81:14
Giampiero Pinzi has an effort at goal from outside the box which goes wide right of the target.78:17
The free kick is swung in right-footed by Theo Walcott.78:17 Booking
Booking Pablo Armero receives a caution for persistent infringement.77:42
Foul by Pablo Armero on Bacary Sagna, free kick awarded.76:01
Yao Gervinho takes a shot. Giovanni Pasquale gets a block in. Corner taken right-footed by Theo Walcott to the near post, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu makes a clearance.73:04
Emmanuel Frimpong concedes a free kick for a foul on Antonio Di Natale. Shot on goal comes in from Antonio Di Natale from the free kick, save by Wojciech Szczesny. Antonio Di Natale decides to take a short corner.72:50
Emmanuel Frimpong gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu. Mauricio Isla takes the free kick.71:26 Substitution
Substitution (Arsenal) makes a substitution, with Emmanuel Frimpong coming on for Tomas Rosicky.71:26
Tomas Rosicky takes a shot from deep inside the box clearing the bar.70:20
Bacary Sagna takes the free kick.70:20 Booking
Booking Giampiero Pinzi receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
Yao Gervinho fouled by Giampiero Pinzi, the ref awards a free kick.68:56
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Save by Samir Handanovic.67:40
The assistant referee signals for offside against Marouane Chamakh. Samir Handanovic takes the free kick.66:43
Alex Song gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Antonio Di Natale. Mauricio Isla takes the free kick.65:35
The ball is sent over by Antonio Di Natale. Shot from just outside the area by Pablo Armero goes over the bar.65:14
Antonio Di Natale decides to take a short corner.59:31
Mauricio Isla produces a right-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand post.58:29
Pablo Armero takes the direct free kick.58:29 Substitution
Substitution Giovanni Pasquale is brought on as a substitute for Piccoli Neuton.58:29
Foul by Aaron Ramsey on Giampiero Pinzi, free kick awarded.56:33
Carl Jenkinson fouled by Mehdi Benatia, the ref awards a free kick. Bacary Sagna takes the free kick.54:50 Substitution
Substitution Carl Jenkinson comes on in place of Johan Djourou.52:49
Corner taken left-footed by Pablo Armero, clearance made by Johan Djourou.51:11
The official flags Antonio Di Natale offside. Alex Song takes the direct free kick.48:57
Antonio Di Natale takes a shot. Clearance made by Johan Djourou. Antonio Di Natale decides to take the corner short. Giampiero Pinzi is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Direct free kick taken by Wojciech Szczesny.48:20
Giampiero Pinzi challenges Aaron Ramsey unfairly and gives away a free kick. Thomas Vermaelen takes the free kick.47:11
Mauricio Isla challenges Johan Djourou unfairly and gives away a free kick. Johan Djourou takes the direct free kick.46:20 Substitution
Substitution Johan Djourou joins the action as a substitute, replacing Kieran Gibbs.45:01
The second half begins.45:00 +1:01 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to end the first period.44:54
Antonio Di Natale takes a shot. Blocked by Laurent Koscielny. Short corner taken by Antonio Di Natale from the right by-line.44:17
Free kick taken by Mauricio Isla.44:17 Booking
Booking Kieran Gibbs is booked.44:01
Kieran Gibbs challenges Mauricio Isla unfairly and gives away a free kick.42:02
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Marouane Chamakh by Danilo Larangeira. Theo Walcott takes the free kick. Thomas Vermaelen takes a shot. Blocked by Mehdi Benatia.40:12
Short corner worked by Antonio Di Natale.38:06
Thomas Vermaelen gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Antonio Di Natale. Free kick taken by Mauricio Isla.36:54
Antonio Di Natale produces a left-footed shot from the edge of the box and misses to the right of the target.36:01
Antonio Di Natale takes the outswinging corner, Marouane Chamakh manages to make a clearance.35:37
The referee gives a free kick against Marouane Chamakh for handball. Danilo Larangeira takes the direct free kick.34:57
Giampiero Pinzi gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Alex Song. Direct free kick taken by Bacary Sagna.33:48
Outswinging corner taken by Theo Walcott, Marouane Chamakh challenges Mehdi Benatia unfairly and gives away a free kick. Samir Handanovic restarts play with the free kick.33:39
Bacary Sagna crosses the ball, clearance made by Danilo Larangeira.32:53
Yao Gervinho takes a shot. Pablo Armero gets a block in. Tomas Rosicky takes a shot. Mehdi Benatia gets a block in.32:23
Alex Song concedes a free kick for a foul on Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu. Free kick taken by Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu.31:37
Unfair challenge on Marouane Chamakh by Mehdi Benatia results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Kieran Gibbs.30:55
The referee penalises Yao Gervinho for handball. Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu takes the free kick.29:56
Marouane Chamakh challenges Danilo Larangeira unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Samir Handanovic.28:45
The assistant referee signals for offside against Yao Gervinho. Free kick taken by Samir Handanovic.26:29
Marouane Chamakh takes a shot. Mehdi Benatia gets a block in.25:34
Pablo Armero takes a shot. Wojciech Szczesny makes a save. Mauricio Isla takes a shot. Alex Song gets a block in.24:55
Corner from right by-line taken by Theo Walcott.21:21
Theo Walcott takes a shot. Save by Samir Handanovic.16:57
Theo Walcott is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Danilo Larangeira restarts play with the free kick.14:28
Long distance shot from Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu misses to the left of the target.11:03
Strike comes in from Antonio Di Natale from the free kick,11:03 Booking
Booking Theo Walcott shown a yellow card.10:58 Booking
Booking Piccoli Neuton goes into the book for dissent.10:46
Theo Walcott gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Piccoli Neuton.10:00
Giampiero Pinzi fouled by Kieran Gibbs, the ref awards a free kick. Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu restarts play with the free kick.8:25
Corner taken right-footed by Theo Walcott from the right by-line, clearance made by Mehdi Benatia.8:01
Mehdi Benatia fouled by Marouane Chamakh, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Samir Handanovic.6:58
Foul by Bacary Sagna on Pablo Armero, free kick awarded. Kwadwo Asamoah takes the direct free kick.6:02
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Theo Walcott played to the near post, Giampiero Pinzi makes a clearance. Aaron Ramsey gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Pablo Armero. Danilo Larangeira restarts play with the free kick.4:23
Unfair challenge on Tomas Rosicky by Kwadwo Asamoah results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Tomas Rosicky.3:19
Assist on the goal came from Aaron Ramsey.3:19 Goal scored
Goal! - Theo Walcott - Arsenal 1 - 0 Udinese Theo Walcott fires in a goal from close range to the bottom right corner of the goal. Arsenal 1-0 Udinese.2:45
Marouane Chamakh challenges Giampiero Pinzi unfairly and gives away a free kick. Joel Ekstrand restarts play with the free kick.2:23
Giampiero Pinzi fouled by Laurent Koscielny, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu.1:16
Kieran Gibbs takes the direct free kick.1:16 Booking
Booking Mehdi Benatia booked for unsporting behaviour.0:45
Joel Ekstrand gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Marouane Chamakh.0:00
The referee gets the game started.
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