21 February 2006

In the seven games from 21 January to 14 February 2006 Arsenal recorded two wins, four defeats, one draw.  And one of those wins was not enough, because although Arsenal beat Wigan at home 2-1 in the league up, Arsenal went out of the competition on away goals, after the aggregate was 2-2.

Arsenal were now fifth in the league – so not even heading for a Champions League place.  We were four points behind Tottenham in fourth, and 10 points behind Liverpool in third. 

In the Champions League we were about to play Real Madrid away – and no English club had ever won there.

Even our famed goalscoring record was taking a beating as we had scored 13 fewer than both Chelsea and Manchester United, the top two teams in the league.

So the game on 21 February 2006 did not look a very exciting prospect: playing Real Madrid away.    And yet despite all the prognostications of the media and the gloom among supporters after the poor run of league form  Arsenal beat Real Madrid 0-1 away in the Champions League – the first English club to win there.  Henry scored.

But even that amazing victory did not lift the gloom for in the next match Arsenal lost to Blackburn Rovers.

However on 4 March recovery started with a 4-0 away win at Fulham, which set things up nicely for the home tie with Real Madrid.  A goalless draw is not normally something to write home about (if you see what I mean) but on this day that was all we needed and Arsenal went through.

There were 17 games of the season left.  Arsenal only lost two of them; away to Manchester United and the Champions League final having knocked out Juventus and Villareal along the way.

We came in fourth, two points ahead of Tottenham, and although there was gloom at the defeat in the Champions League final, we still had that memory of the defeat of Real Madrid.  And the look of dismay on Tottenham faces.  They had not come above fifth since 1990, and they were so sure that this would be their year.  They came in fifth.

You will find a video of the Champions League game against Real Madrid on the AISA Arsenal History Society site today.