TWO GOALS by Marc Overmars helped Arsenal make partial amends for another failed Champions' League adventure by maintaining an unbeaten away record and finishing on a winning note in this season's competition. The Gunners have ended up with two wins, two draws and two defeats - exactly the same as they did last year.
That they managed heroic away draws at Fiorentina and Barcelona and finished off with a well-earned victory in Sweden will only add emphasis to the popular theory that choosing Wembley for their home fixtures was again their undoing. Now they go into the Uefa Cup as consolation for finishing third in Group B, parachuting into the third-round draw on Friday.
Arsenal might have been glad just to get this game over and done with but AIK Solna's fans certainly took it seriously. Their home attendances rarely top 14,000 for domestic fixtures, but there was a full house of more than twice that figure at the Rasunda Stadium last night, hoping to witness the Swedish side's first victory in the Champions' League. Fewer than 500 were from north London but they were first to raise a cheer after 16 minutes.
Fredrik Ljungberg timed his forward pass perfectly to Emmanuel Petit and the Frenchman's cross from the right found Overmars unmarked in the middle. The Dutchman then calmly fired past Mattias Asper from 10 yards.
Solna raised the tempo and started to trouble the Arsenal centre-back pairing of Matthew Upson and Oleg Luzhny. After 27 minutes, Ola Andersson was judged onside running on to a long through ball but Alex Manninger sprang from his line to make the block with his legs. The same player had another good opportunity when Andreas Andersson laid the ball to him at the edge of the area but his shot flew wide.
The Swedes then earned the goal their powerful running deserved when Andreas Andersson slotted the equaliser in the 41st minute. Patrick Vieira lost possession in the Solna half and Daniel Tjernstrom wasted no time hitting a long ball in behind the Gunners' back four. Andreas Andersson burst through and rounded Manninger before firing home.
Arsenal were under the cosh at the start of the second half and had to stoically defend a series of free-kicks just outside the area, but then turned the game with two goals in four minutes. Nwankwo Kanu set up both, taking Petit's pass and slipping the ball through on the left side of the area for Overmars to score his second goal in the 52nd minute. Kanu then pulled away down the right flank and crossed low for Davor Suker to convert from close range four minutes later.
Solna played their way back into the match, though, after 68 minutes when Tjernstrom's diagonal ball put Andersson in behind Dixon to poke the ball past Manninger. Arsenal, however, held out for the victory they fully deserved and it was yet again a case of what might have been had they had a little more luck against Barcelona and Fiorentina at Wembley.
AIK Solna (4-4-2): Asper (Baxter, 72); Nordin, Kaamark, Corneliusson (Aslund, 72), O Andersson; Lagerlof, Gustafsson, Kjolo, Tjernstrom; Novakovic, A Andersson. Substitutes not used: Mattiasson, Hoch, Johansson, Ishizaki.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Manninger; Dixon, Luzhny (Vivas, 78), Upson, Winterburn; Ljungberg, Vieira, Petit (Malz, 78), Overmars; Kanu, Suker (Hughes, 78). Substitutes not used: Seaman (gk), Vernazza, Black, Cole.
Referee: H Strampe (Germany).
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