Champions League Group Stage
Tuesday, October 23, 2007, 7.45pm (+0 GMT)
Arsenal FC 7-0 SK Slavia Praha
Arsenal FC equalled the record UEFA Champions League victory on Tuesday, brushing aside SK Slavia Praha 7-0 with a masterful display of slick, passing football.
The emphatic win – which matched Juventus's mark against Olympiacos CFP in December 2003 – was the English club's 12th consecutive success in all competitions, taking them to the brink of the first knockout round with nine points from three Group H games. From the moment Cesc Fabregas broke the deadlock in the fifth minute, the result never seemed in doubt. A David Hubáček own goal and further strikes from Theo Walcott (2), Aleksandr Hleb, Fabregas and Nicklas Bendtner, on his group stage debut, rewarded Arsenal's obvious superiority.
Slavia coach Karel Jarolím had suggested the group stage newcomers and Czech league leaders might need a "small miracle", and the task became even more daunting once Fabregas opened the scoring. Hleb retrieved possession on the left, laid the ball inside to Fabregas, and after his marker Mickaël Tavares had lost his footing, the Spanish international curled a sumptuous effort inside the far post.
It was the first time the home side had looked dangerous following a low-key opening that saw the visitors' five-man midfield closing down to good effect. With top scorer Stanislav Vlček largely an isolated figure early on, midfielders Milan Ivana and David Kalivoda took turns to break forward and Slavia appeared dangerous at times in the first half.
But if Arsène Wenger's men were struggling to create chances without their injured talisman Robin van Persie, their potency in front of goal was highly impressive. Indeed, when Fabregas's 24th-minute corner was only half-cleared, Hleb rifled in a shot which Hubáček inadvertently turned beyond the wrong-footed Martin Vaniak.
Slavia's confidence waned and Emmanuel Adebayor was close to adding a third before the half-hour, the striker heading down Walcott's cross only for Vaniak to save brilliantly with his feet. The Slavia goalkeeper was culpable four minutes before the break, however, miscuing a clearance to Walcott, then seeing the teenager create an angle and slot in his first UEFA Champions League goal.
Tomáš Jablonský was introduced for Kalivoda at half-time as Slavia altered their formation, with Ivana joining Vlček in attack. The change did not bother Arsenal who blew their opponents away with three goals in a devastating spell. On 51 minutes, Emmanuel Eboué and Fabregas combined to release Hleb who cut inside Marek Suchý and beat Vaniak at his near post.
The Belarussian turned provider four minutes later, exchanging passes with Fabregas before playing Walcott in with a slide-rule ball, and the youngster poked a shot inside the far post. Arsenal were rampant and Fabregas, a central figure throughout, rounded off another thrilling move by collecting Walcott's lay-off and calmly finishing. Slavia sought a late consolation and Manuel Almunia had to produce sharp saves from Matej Krajčík and Vlček. Nonetheless, Arsenal had the last say as Tomáš Rosický thundered a shot against the post before another substitute, Bendtner, latched on to Eboué's back-heel and equalled both Juve's mark and Arsenal's record European win.