Keown blows cold as Arsenal sink to a sorry defeat

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Arsenal crumbled to an embarrassing defeat in sub-zero Donetsk to bring a slightly disappointing end to what had previously been a splendid Champions' League campaign.

Arsenal crumbled to an embarrassing defeat in sub-zero Donetsk to bring a slightly disappointing end to what had previously been a splendid Champions' League campaign.

Arsÿne Wenger's team may have already clinched qualification for the second phase of the tournament but that was no excuse for such a uninspired performance, even if his team was sprinkled with a clutch of young reserves.

Martin Keown, whose two late goals secured victory when these teams met at Highbury in September, was a wretched figure in this return meeting at the Centralny stadium. This time he was responsible for two of the three goals which enabled the Ukrainian side to snatch a well-deserved Uefa Cup consolation place by finishing third in Group B.

Keown was not the only one of Arsenal's top stars to disappoint. Thierry Henry was desperately ineffective and was taken off just after the hour by which time Shakhtar were two goals up and giving the supporters from this poor mining district a night to remember.

Some of Arsenal's expensive stars appeared to have travelled to the Ukraine under duress for what they considered a meaningless match after already taking top spot in the group. It certainly looked that way at times with some slapdash passing and a general lack of bite that contrasted severely with the icy winds that sliced in from Siberia.

In the first half Arsenal had a Sylvain Wiltord goal controversially disallowed for offside and Nwankwo Kanu kept trying to feed Henry's pace with well-timed throughballs, but the Gunners were lacking cohesion and looked unusually ragged. But Shakthar, with the lucrative Uefa Cup carrot at stake, were certainly up for the fight right from the start backed by a 32,000 following.

Their captain, Hennady Zubov, and the striker Andriy Vorobei posed a tough test for the young central-defensive partnership of Matthew Upson and Ashley Cole, the latter being booked in the 29th minute for ending one of Zubov's right-wing runs with a shove from behind.

Wiltord's disallowed goal came on the half-hour when he curled a lovely shot around the goalkeeper, Yuri Virt, after Lauren's surge through the middle. Four minutes after that Keown's failed attempt to hack away Anatoli Timoschuk's long ball allowed Serhiy Atelkin to run on and beat the 19-year-old Arsenal goalkeeper, Stuart Taylor, with a shot that went in off the post.

Taylor had already distinguished himself with a reflex stop to deny Vorobei scoring from close range, but in the second half his defensive cover was breached consistently. Arsenal, badly missing the quality of Patrick Vieira, Silvinho and Tony Adams, gave away free-kicks with regularity and conceded again from a set-piece in the 57th minute. Vorobei, who scored one of Shakhtar's goals in the 3-2 defeat at Highbury, curled a fierce free-kick over the defensive wall and well wide of Taylor's diving grasp.

Nine minutes later, Arsenal were cut open again by Vorobei's bristling right-wing run at the end of which he delivered a low cross which Keown again failed to cut out. The substitute Olexiy Bielik, who had already missed a good chance soon after coming on, made no mistake on this occasion.

The Gunners only really started firing in the last 15 minutes when Wiltord was denied a consolation effort by Virt's sprawling save. But it was too little, too late to rescue Wenger's team who suffered only their third defeat this season, failing to score for only the second time. But their work had already been done and by topping Group B they have ensured themselves a favourable second-phase draw on Friday.

Shakhtar Donetsk: Virt; Starostyak, Gleveckas, Timoschuk, Popov, Bakharev, Zubov, Atelkin (Bielik, 52), Vorobei (Savu, 88), Abramov (Aliuta, 77), Okoronkwo. Substitutes not used: Shutkov, Kovalyov, Chmarko, Shevchuk.

Arsenal: Taylor; Dixon, Keown, Upson, Cole; Vivas, Parlour (Vernazza, 72), Lauren, Kanu; Henry (Ljungberg, 64), Wiltord. Substitutes not used: Lukic (gk), Wreh, Barrett, Weston, Mendez.

Referee: E K Fister (Denmark).

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