It’s that time again as we take a trip down memory lane, and this time around, we’re looking at one of the most famous nights in the history of Arsenal Football Club. The date was April 25th, 2006 and the location was Spain as the Gunners drew 0-0 with La Liga side Villarreal to seal their place in the UEFA Champions League Final in Paris.
Their run through the tournament was all the more surprising given their relatively poor performances in the Premier League, but it didn’t matter one bit on this night as they were able to celebrate one of the club’s finest ever achievements. They were heading into the second leg tie with a 1-0 lead from the first leg at Highbury, as Kolo Toure’s goal gave them the advantage.
Alas, things were a little bit more reserved away from home, as Villarreal gave it all they had in an attempt to book their unlikely place in what would’ve been an all-Spanish final had they managed to overcome the North London outfit.
Mathieu Flamini went off early on in what proved to be an early indicator of the struggles facing Arsenal throughout the evening. Jens Lehmann had one of his busiest and most successful days in goal as Diego Forlan came agonisingly close to levelling up the scores on aggregate before the Gunners continually rode their luck as the travelling fans grew more and more uneasy.
They’d seen their side squander many leads over the course of the few years prior, and given the weight of the situation, it wouldn’t have been all too surprising if Villarreal had managed to pull off the comeback – especially after Gael Clichy conceded a penalty in the dying embers of the game.
The chance to take the encounter into extra time fell to Juan Roman Riquelme, but German goalkeeper Lehmann gave a preview of his World Cup heroics that summer by saving the effort and sending Arsenal to Paris.
To say it must be difficult for Arsenal fans to watch this game would be a dramatic understatement, as they look back to what could’ve been. As we all know they eventually lost the final to Barcelona in heartbreaking fashion, and in the present day, they’re battling to even break into the Champions League as they prepare to tackle Atletico Madrid in their Europa League semi-final.
Hopefully, Arsene Wenger can call upon his experiences in Spain from all those years ago to motivate the players ahead of what is sure to be a fiery affair.
Where were you on that famous night?