Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said last night that he was "proud" his side were the last British club left in the Champions' League - and added, pointedly, that they will go forward "in style and dignity" into the last eight.
"Sometimes this season we have been kicked off the park without protection," he said. "Sometimes we have looked naïve but have tried to play football. I prefer the kind of game we had tonight." It was indeed a contest of footballing ability. "It was a great night," the Arsenal manager added.
"I felt it was a great 0-0 and a great football game. Both teams have had a go at each other with perfect spirit." Wenger said it was a "major surprise" that Arsenal had fared better than Chelsea, Liverpool and Rangers and also played more expansively. "Nobody expected that," he said while agreeing the result would be a confidence boost for his young players after a nervous opening to the match.
He said it was also significant that over two legs Real Madrid had failed to score. "They showed character," he said of his team. "To go out and show that attitude is fantastic." Wenger added: "We have rebuilt character and solidarity and they are the basic qualities of our club and have not always been there this season. We have worked and are gelling together."
Wenger also hailed a second-half save by Jens Lehmann from Raul in what was a brilliant team performance. But he would not be drawn on the significance of the result for the future of Thierry Henry.
The Arsenal captain himself said it was a "tremendous" result, adding: "I don't know if you enjoyed it, but out on the pitch I enjoyed it. It had everything and a lot of suspense at the end. Both teams tried to play."
The Real Madrid coach, Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, admitted that his team had not deserved to progress. "I think the result is fair," he said. "It's true that when you look back over the two legs they were superior to us. We had many chances and we should have scored, but we were not clinical enough. I can only congratulate Arsène, his players and coaches because they have played two fantastic matches."
Caro defended the performance of David Beckham - whose fitness was questioned - saying that he had "fought hard" but suffered from the changes to the team, while he reacted curtly to questions about the attitude of both Ronaldo and Raul. Caro said simply that he had played them both to win the tie. It did not happen.Reuse content