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Flashback: This day 9 years ago, Arsenal got oh-so-close to their Holy Grail

The Gunners looked set to lift the 2006 Champions League but for a late rally from Barcelona.

Image: Martin Rickett/PA Archive/Press Association Images

TWO DELICATE TOUCHES from Henrik Larsson stand out when looking back at the 2006 Champions League final. Before them, it seemed Arsenal had the trophy in their grasp. Afterwards, there was that inevitable feeling that it was Barcelona’s day.

It started well for the Gunners, of course. Thierry Henry was denied by a superb close-range Victor Valdes save inside the opening minutes while from the resulting corner, the Frenchman smacked a long-range effort towards the near post that the goalkeeper pushed to safety.

The influence of the respective net-minders proved a neat sub-plot, especially considering Arsenal lost theirs within the opening 20 minutes.

Jens Lehmann brought down Samuel Eto’o as the striker raced through on goal and picked up a red card for his troubles. Arsene Wenger was forced into a major rethink and had to sacrifice Robert Pires in order to bring in replacement keeper Manuel Almunia.

Still though, Arsenal took the lead on 37 minutes when Sol Campbell glanced a header to the far corner, following Henry’s perfectly-floated free-kick.

Source: FC Barcelona/YouTube

Before the break, Barcelona were within a whisker of equalising when Eto’o hit the inside of the post after turning Campbell brilliantly in the area.

After the restart, Arsenal continued to threaten with Freddie Ljungberg and Henry both missing decent opportunities.

On the half hour, Barca coach Frank Rijkaard changed things and introduced Larsson for Mark van Bommel. Ten minutes later, another switch – full-back Juliano Belletti replaced Oleguer.

Within five breathless minutes, both substitutes would have a devastating influence on proceedings.

With less than fifteen to go, a deft Larsson flick played in the rampaging Eto’o in the left channel of the penalty area and the striker swept it past Almunia.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Final - Barcelona v Arsenal - Stade de France Source: Nick Potts/PA Archive/Press Association Images

And in 81st minute, something similar on the opposite flank as Larsson’s clever reverse pass found Belletti’s purposeful run and he squeezed it under Almunia at the near post to ensure Barca’s first European Cup since 1992.

How many of these players do you remember? Did you have any favourites? 


Barcelona: Valdes, Oleguer (Belletti 71), Marquez, Puyol, Van Bronckhorst, Deco, Edmilson (Iniesta 45), Van Bommel (Larsson 61), Giuly, Eto’o, Ronaldinho.

Subs Not Used: Jorquera, Motta, Xavi, Sylvinho.

Arsenal: Lehmann, Eboue, Toure, Campbell, Cole, Pires (Almunia 20), Silva, Fabregas (Flamini 74), Hleb (Reyes 85), Ljungberg, Henry.

Subs Not Used: Bergkamp, Van Persie, Senderos, Clichy.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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