Football: Arsenal rise to an Alpine challenge: Adams and Bould cope commendably with Italian job

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IN THE land of the wild boar, Arsenal were one thing but not the other - and no prizes for guessing which. England's last survivors in European competition travelled to Alpine Italy in search of a draw, and came away well satisfied after a non- event which leaves them firm favourites to complete the job in the decisive home leg, and go through to the semi-finals of the Cup-Winners' Cup.

Exciting it wasn't, but the performance was not without its merits. Arsenal played the Italians at their own cat and mouse game, frustrating them with possession football and defending with impressive resolution and determination.

Appropriately enough, given the location, they threw a shroud over a congested midfield, where the game died a slow death by suffocation.

The drums beat and the crowd roared, but out in the middle not much stirred. The onus was on the Italians, as the home side, but they lacked the pace and penetration to inconvenience one of English football's most parsimonious defences.

Arsenal deployed a safety first 4-5-1 formation, with Alan Smith ploughing a lone furrow in attack, but if a clean sheet was, as usual, their priority, they were never excessively preoccupied with defence, and gave as good as they got.

To their credit, they eschewed the long ball which is their stock in trade in favour of a measured passing game, reasoning that to knock it over the top in such company is to invite the opposition to accept possession and hit back hard.

Arsenal kept it short and close, Torino managed only sporadic attacks whch were devoid of real conviction. The result was an instantly forgettable game whch suffered by comparison with its handsome setting.

The magnificent Stadio delle Alpi, nestling at the foot of Mont Blanc, was only half full, but the atmosphere was the usual Latin blend of colour and cacophony.

Arsenal were unimpressed. They made a good job of dousing the passion and the volume dropped the longer the game went on. There was an ominous start when Lee Dixon was caught ball-watching as Robert Jarni surged through in the

inside-left channel before shooting into the side-netting. It was to be a rare alarm. Arsenal steadied themselves, ensnared Torino in that packed midfield and made decent progress of their own.

Their best chance came on the half-hour, when a Paul Davis corner was met with a poor clearance which merely returned the ball to his feet, out on the right. Davis's second cross was a better one, and found its way via Kevin Campbell to Tony Adams who, at full stretch, was a tantalising inch short with a lunging prod.

Torino had an even better opportunity before half-time, when Jarni's cross from the left found Daniele Fortunato, who was wastefully wide with a free header at the far post.

Andrea Silenzi, their tall Italian international, accomplished nothing of note. Torino replaced their leading scorer with little Benito Carbone, whose darting pace always seemed a better bet against the big men. Little or large, though, it was all the same to Adams and Steve Bould, who were reliability personified.

Adams shut out Enzo Francescoli late on with an all- consuming tackle and Marco Sinigaglia hooked over with the last kick of the game, but by that stage Arsenal's supporters had long since given up this one for dead, and had resorted to singing about the prospects of Tottenham's relegation.

Ian Wright might have made a difference. Arsenal will certainly expect him to do so when Torino come to Highbury in two weeks' time.

Torino (1-2-5-2): Galli; Fusi; Gregucci, Sottil (Sinigaglia, 62); Cois, Mussi, Fortunato, Venturin, Jarni; Francescoli, Silenzi (Carbone, 67). Substitutes not used: Pastine, Sergio, Poggi.

Arsenal (4-5-1): Seaman; Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn; Campbell, Jensen, Hillier, Davis (Selley, 83), Merson; Smith. Substitutes not used: Keown, McGoldrick, Limpar, Miller (gk).

Referee: J Quiniou (France).

(Photograph omitted)

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