A day after they announced they had the cash to build a new stadium to assault football's world order, Arsenal collected an invaluable victory in what was once regarded as the end of the old world, the tip of the Roman Empire. In winning in the vast Spanish fishing port of Vigo, they took a huge step towards the last eight of the Champions' League for only the second time in six seasons. But, with alarming defensive failings, whether they have the ability to go much further must be in some doubt.
The victory owed everything to the determination Arsène Wenger has instilled in his players to succeed - plus an astonishing contribution from their midfielder Edu with two goals, the second of which was exceptional. Given that a Brazilian by the name of Luis Edu scored for the Galicians, and vied with him for man of the match, it really was much Edu about something.
It is the first time Arsenal have prevailed in Spain on seven occasions. Furthermore Celta Vigo - for all their aggression and prowess in undoing their opponents at set-pieces - surrendered the second longest unbeaten home record in Europe. It was 1998 and 22 games ago that they last lost to a foreign team here. A proud record. Arsenal, it seems, are making history wherever they go.
"We found resources and we never panicked," Wenger said, although he admitted his players were stretched. There was none of the serenity of the Premiership. "The hard work was done by Celta Vigo," Wenger added. "They made it difficult for us and did not give us space."
Radomir Antic, the Celta coach, was unceremonious. "We deserved at least a point," he rightly said. "My players gave everything but decisions went against us." He claimed, erroneously, that two penalties should have been awarded.
Inside the first 20 minutes, his team were even spilling blood. A free-kick by Robert Pires was headed by Edu against Patrick Vieira. As the ball thrashed around, Edu lunged forward, his boot striking the ball, his knee smashing into the bridge of Cavallero's nose. With the goalkeeper prone, the ball pinged off Eduardo Berizzo and into the net. Edu claimed the strike. Despite the crowd's anger the goal, rightly, stood. It was a brutal setback for Celta who had started with obvious aggression. They almost took the lead when Jose Antonio Reyes, back on Spanish soil after his £17.5m move from Sevilla, passed carelessly into centre-field. The ball was fed to Savo Milosevic and his shot was smothered by Sol Campbell's tackle. With Sven Goran Eriksson watching, it was, in more ways than one, a timely intervention.
Edu was soon on the score-sheet again. Unfortunately for Arsenal, he was playing for Celta. And, furthermore, it came from a free-kick delivered by Arsenal's former full-back, and another Brazilian, Silvinho. Confused? Vieira was as he, inexplicably, allowed Luis Edu a free header. But the Spaniards deserved to be level.
They played with purpose, with Alexander Mostovoi linking play, which has been instilled in them by Antic who took over last month after a disastrous run of form left them in the relegation places. They now hover above them and appear to have paid a heavy price for their European efforts. Last term's fourth place in La Liga seems a long way away. Their tribulations did not show as they set about their opponents, forcing them back, hunting down the ball, and crowding out Thierry Henry.
Arsenal were almost undone 40 seconds after the re-start. Again it was the dangerous Luis Edu whose cross picked out Mostovoi and, again, it was a free header. This time it cannoned off the bar and was scrambled clear. "A turning point," Wenger said. Arsenal were very lucky.
Luis Edu had switched flanks and ran at Gaël Clichy. In a rare counter-attack, Fredrik Ljungberg released Reyes whose shot was parried smartly by Cavallero. Henry snapped on the rebound but pushed the ball wide. Yet it provided the impetus and Edu intervened again. Thankfully he was wearing red. The Brazilian showed composure, and skill, to defeat three challenges before superbly curling the ball, from 20 yards, with his weaker right foot.
Celta bit back. Once more it was from a set-piece, a corner, and another unchallenged one, Sergio's header turned in by Jose Ignacio.
Arsenal were not to be undone. They drew on their mental strength, and their skill. Henry's clever, short pass picked out Pires, otherwise passive, who slipped the ball into the net. The crowd fell silent and filed out as meekly as their team at the end. Arsenal were victorious. The match was won, the tie almost. Whether they are ready, just yet, to conquer football's world order remains to be seen.
Celta Vigo (4-2-3-1) Cavallero; Velasco, Sergio, Berizzo, Silvinho; Luccin, Jose Ignacio; Angel (Vagner, 64), Mostovoi, L Edu (Pinilla, 75); Milosevic. Substitutes not used: Pinto (gk), Caceres, Contreras, Mendez, Jandro.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Lauren, Touré, Campbell, Clichy (Cygan, 89); Ljungberg (Bentley, 89), Edu, Vieira, Pires; Reyes (Kanu, 78), Henry. Substitutes not used: Stack (gk), Keown, Hoyte, Fabregas.
Referee: A Frisk (Sweden).Reuse content