So, as far as I'm concerned, a good result that could, nay should, have been a great one. We dominated the game and had a hatful of chances, but only came away with one goal. So the second leg will be far tighter than the the game in Turin. One goal from Villa and everything will be up for grabs.
We opened very brightly, and unfortunately, as in the United game we didn't make our opening pressure tell. However, unlike at Old Trafford, we had a perfectly good goal ruled out when Henry slid past the keeper fairly early on. I had a horrible feeling that we would go in at 0-0 at h-t and Villa might edge toward getting a goal - but we stuck at it and got the breakthrough at about the same time Fab had scored in the Juve game.
Andy Gray - who was acerbically anti-Arsenal all night - claimed that the goal was purely due to slack Villa defending. Not the beautifully weighted ball from Henry which split three defenders or Hleb's wonderful cross. Idiot. Kolo finally got his much well deserved first goal at Highbury. And all seemed to be going to plan.
Then, I'm afraid to say, Villa had a stone-wall penalty turned down. Gilberto - my man of the match - scythed through the back of Jose Mari, and, in all honesty I was amazed a penalty wasn't given. From the refs position it may have seemed that Gilberto won the ball, which he did partly, but it was a real get out of jail moment.
Second half we struggled on but we seemed noticably more weary than in the Juve and Real matched. Fabregas, who had been bright and creative, noticably tired; while on the right, Hleb was consistently fouled every time he took the ball into the Villa half. The ref - who was otherwise excellent - should have done more to protect him. We had a few half-chances - Henry's attempted tap-in the most noticable - before Bergkamp and Rvp came on. Neither really got into the game and Bergkamp was denied a tap in very late on.
I have to say, I thought Villa were poor. We completely shackled Riquelme - Gilbs doing his job superbly - while Forlan more than looked like the player who took 30-odd games to score when he was put up against Kolo and Phil. They had a few shots on goal which Jens dealt with, but that was about it. So, and this seems to have been largely forgotten, we extended our clean sheet record in the CL to yet another game.
I thought the attitude of the Villa players was a disgrace though. The slightest tap and they went down, almost always accompanied by a series of theatrics. For any of you old enough - it was very reminiscent of the 1990 world cup: players going down and rolling about perpetually in anguish, before popping straight back up to try and head in the ball. At one point, after another Villa player had gone down, Hleb smashed the ball into the advertising hoarding, instead of continuing the attack we'd just started. To be honest I think we all shared his frustration, and even the ref was telling the Villa players to get up as the game wore on. I expected more than Villa than a team who would merely try and deny us from playing - rather than play themselves - and also, essentially, cheat. It was dissapointing to see, and I felt they let their travelling support down. I think at one point I said to my mate 'this is not football' when the game had been held up for another stoppage.
So an edgy night in Villa ahead of us, and a huge game on Saturday with a team of players who clearly need a rest. We are abundantly better than both of these teams, and it will especially be a travesty if Villareal get to the final instead of us. They played anti-football last night: we must not let the dark side of the force prevail. We can do it. Keep the faith and for those of you who managed to get tickets - make sure you're the 12th man.