“NEVER DESPAIR” was the motto of Arsenal’s goalkeeper, Jens Lehmann, who never gave up full the death, getting his team into the final of the Champions League competition.
Arsene Wenger’s side hung on to their 1-0 first leg lead over Villarreal by the skin of their teeth. They weathered a 90 minute Spanish onslaught, which saw their German keeper save strikes from Sorin and Franco before facing his personal Waterloo in the 89th minute. Left back, Gael Clichy, was adjudged to have fouled José Mari in the area, and Argentina’s Juan Roman Riquelme lined up the ball for the killer blow. The claustrophobic El Madrigal stadium held its collective breath as the ball was firmly struck to the right, but Lehmann had flung himself in the same direction, keeping the shot out to preserve his record run of 10 successive clean sheets. As Spanish tears flowed freely, Arsenal headed towards Paris, and their first Champions League final ever on May 17. Waiting in the Stade de France will be competition favourites Barcelona. Ronaldinho and co also enjoyed a 1-0 first leg lead at the Nou Camp, but were made to sweat by their Italian visitors. AC Milan were always looking for the elusive equaliser and thought they had found it when Andrei Shevchenko headed home only to see his goal disallowed for the most feeble of pushes. Earlier, Samuel Eto’o should have put the match out of Milan’s reach on several occasions, but Dida between the Spanish posts rose to the challenge every time. Thus the match remained goalless, ushering Barcelona into the ultimate showdown against the young English pretenders.