Godfather Of Champions Chapter 218
Chapter 218: One On One
Chapter 218: One on One
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Arsenal tried to regain control of the game five minutes into the start of the second half. Henry was more active than he had been in the first half. He was constantly on the wing, seeking out opportunities to coordinate with Pirs and trying to break through the flanks. They almost succeeded once; Henry and Pirs did a two-versus-one pass on the wing and then cut into the penalty area. Coming up to defend against Henry, Matthew Upson's foot slipped, and he suddenly fell.
Henry did not expect this, and as a result, he shot the ball towards the stands behind back of the goal.
All of the Nottingham Forest people gasped. Twain was also startled, and almost jumped from his seat in the technical area.
Upson got up from the ground and turned to look at the goal in panic. Hierro came up to him and patted his shoulder to reassure him.
On the Arsenal side, Henry held his head in his hands. He had not thought that his volley would overshoot and fly out. When Upson fell down, it was just the Forest team goalkeeper in front of him, and the the goal. During training and even during matches, a situation like that would normally have been a walk in the park.
Wenger looked even sorrier than Henry. He stood up from his seat, saw that the ball did not go in, suddenly waved his hands, and sat down.
Arsenal's luck did not seem too good today.
After their narrow escape, the Forest team launched their offense. During the halftime interval, Twain had told them that they were not secure at all with only one goal. What he said had almost come true just now; the Forest players understood the principle.
Albertini was responsible for organizing the attack. Bergkamp came up to intercept, and Albertini chose not to break through, even though he was certain that he could drop the Dutchman in front of him. But he glimpsed George Wood standing not too far from his side.
He remembered Twain's separate conversation with him after a training session.
"Demetrio, what do you think of this George kid?"
"Not bad, very good." His English was not very good, so he did not say much.
"I'm sure you can also see that I value him very much. Now, he's impeccable in his defense, but he lacks a lot in offense. I was hoping you could help him."
"I understand, sir."
Bergkamp saw Albertini move the football to the right. Thinking he was going to break through, he quickly shifted his center of gravity. His opponent did indeed run towards that direction, but he had also passed the football to George Wood with his heel.
Wood received the ball; however, Albertini was enmeshed with Bergkamp. What should he do?
Fbregas saw Wood take the ball and rush up with gritted teeth. He wanted to take revenge. I can't always let this kid pressure me. You robbed me, I'll rob you back!
Wood, who had received the ball, did not know what to do next. He had wanted to pass the ball to Albertini, but he saw that Albertini had an opponent at his side, so he dismissed the idea. Just when he was at a loss, Fbregas charged up!
Unsurprisingly, George Wood, who was not good at ball control, lost the ball.
"Arsenal has the ball again! Beautiful steal! Cesc Fbregas' steal has given Arsenal a chance to fight back, and the Forest team hasn't been able to defend against it, since everyone is still on the offense!"
What Taylor had said was right. When the Forest players saw that Albertini had the ball, they all pressed on eagerly, especially everyone from the two wings. They all rushed up and interrupted the team's coordinated offense.
What they did not expect was that Albertini did not pass the ball Ribry or Ashley Young, but to George Wood, who rarely participated in the team's offense. Leighton Baines and Pascal Chimbonda had to run back at all costs, just like during their sprinting drill. Just like that, their physical energy was wasted.
Wood just saw a flash in front of his eyes, and suddenly there was nothing in front of his feet.
He had lost the ball.
At that point, Wood would not ask himself what to do. Almost instinctively, he turned to stick to Fbregas. With his superior physical strength, he crushed down on his opponent. The Spaniard could not speed up, and could not shake him off.
Fbregas was rammed by Wood from the side, causing his body to lose balance and his pace to become erratic. The football was knocked away, beyond his control range. Hierro received the football just in time, and the ball was back under the Forest team's control.
Twain, who witnessed the scene from the technical area, shook his head and said to David Kerslake, "Looks like we should strengthen Wood's offensive training."
Kerslake nodded in agreement. "Compared to his defense, his offense is almost amateur."
The spectacle of that 60-meter indirect assist to Freddy Eastwood's goal during his debut for the Forest First Team was never seen again in subsequent competitions or training. Wood might have been possessed by some supernatural power that day.
Hierro passed the ball back to Albertini, who retreated to provide support. This time the Italian did not pass the ball to Wood, but passed it straight ahead to Viduka. Under pressure from Tour, Viduka could not turn around, so he could only pass to Ashley Young on the wing. And in the face of Ashley Cole's defense, the youthful Young had no other options; he chose to pass the ball to the right back, Chimbonda, who had just wedged in. The Frenchman just received the ball when his fellow countryman, Pirs, forced his way in. Thus, he could only pass the ball to Albertini in the middle, and Albertini cleverly gave away the ball.
After the football had gone in a big circle, it ended up back in front of George Wood.
Everything that then happened on the field was like a replay of what had happened a minute ago; Fbregas came forward again to snatch, George Wood lost the ball, but he immediately used his defensive instincts and superhuman stamina to intercept it again.
"I really don't understand! When did Wood become the core of the Forest team?" a disgruntled fan complained in the stands. Perhaps they thought that if Albertini had the ball, the team would have already struck the opponent's penalty area, and it would not have been necessary for them to engage in a technical entanglement in the midfield.
Even Kerslake could see that Albertini was deliberately giving George Wood chances to take the ball. He turned to look at Twain, and Twain looked back at him and shrugged, indicating that this was not his idea.
In fact, Twain knew very well that Albertini doing this had something to do with him asking Albertini to teach Wood.
What did Albertini have in mind?
Twain put his chin on his hand and looked at the running figure of Albertini.
Albertini believed there was no better way to teach a man like Wood than to push him into an unavoidable situation. He passed the ball to Wood again and again, forcing Wood to think about how to pass the ball forward instead of just across and back.
When Wood received the ball again, he saw Fbregas dashing over, so he acted on his conditioned reflexes and passed the ball back.
Albertini waved to him and yelled, "Forward!"
Wood was stumped for a moment. Then he obediently ran forward and brushed past Fbregas, who had rushed up. At the same, Albertini passed the ball ahead of him. A two-versus-one pass!
The Arsenal players did not think that George Wood would be able to dribble the ball and plug in the attack. Even Fbregas did not react. He turned sideways and looked at Wood, still awkwardly dribbling the ball, and forgot to defend in turn.
There was not a player wearing the yellow Arsenal away jersey within five meters of Wood. What should he do now?
Albertini ran up from behind, waving at Wood. "Over here!"
Wood listened and passed the ball to him. Albertini shouted again, "Forward!"
Wood continued to move forward, and the Arsenal players reacted. The Forest team was planning on utilizing the coordination of the two men in the center to force a breakthrough!
How can we let you get away with that?
Cygan rushed up to block Wood's running route, and Tour was in the wing to protect Cygan's back whenever necessary. At this time, the two Arsenal center backs put all their focus on George Wood, who had suddenly stepped forward, while neglecting the others.
Albertini made a feint and suddenly shot a direct pass!
All of a sudden, Viduka was no longer in an offside position; what was more, he had received the ball. He was going to single-handedly make the shot!
The City Ground burst into deafening cheers. This was an amazing opportunity. The same thought emerged in everyone's mind simultaneously: if we lead by two points, we will definitely win!
Lehmann attacked, and Viduka received the ball and turned. There was no time to determine the goalkeeper's position, so he just swung his foot and made his shot.
A striker's instinct let him choose the angle of the shot, hoping to bypass Lehmann. But when the tall German landed from his jump, his toes still grazed against the football, the ball bounced and brushed against the goal post and rolled out past the end line.
"The ball didn't go in! This was the best chance for the Forest team in the second half so far; even better than Henry's chance. It's a pity that Viduka didn't make it." Taylor shook his head and sighed, "Lehmann saved the team and rescued Wenger."
What Taylor had said was right. When he saw that the opponent directly struck the heart of his team from the middle, Wenger could not sit still. He suddenly got up from his seat and marched towards the field. The team's performance had not improved, and the Forest team's oppressive defense had completely restrained Arsenal's tactics.
He glanced sideways at Twain, who was also standing on the sidelines. The other man was focused on the game and did not notice him.
Wenger went back again, and said to his assistant manager, Pat Rice, "Get Ljungberg and Reyes to go warm up."
His long-term partner, Rice, could hear that Le Professeur's voice was not as mild as usual.
Viduka's shot had only been a corner ball in the end, but it still electrified Twain. He felt like his heart was about to pop out of his mouth.
He rushed to the sideline. When he discovered that the ball had not entered the goal, he scratched his head with some embarrassment.
But he did not lose heart, because he saw a scene full of hope.
Albertini was leading George Wood to run forward, and taught him step by step how to pass the ball and position himself; Wood did well, too.
He rarely emphasized offense in the center. The Forest team was a team that placed importance on offense through the wings. However, if Wood could develop quickly, the center could also become an important trigger point.
Viduka had wasted Albertini's incredible pass. It was almost impossible to get another opportunity like that in the game because a high-caliber opponent like Arsenal was very adept at self- adjustment.
But Albertini did not grumble about Viduka. Instead, he stepped forward to pat the Australian on the shoulder and ruffled his short hair. Without a word, he ran to the spot for the corner ball. He was also the Forest team's player in the first position for the place kick.
While the team was using a place kick to attack, Twain's task for Wood was to be at the back to defend. Hierro and Upson both ran up, and Wood turned and ran back. Standing in his position and looking at the crowded penalty area, he was still relishing his recent drive.
Twain asked him to learn the Italian's playing style and how to handle the ball. So he watched Albertini very closely during the game. He remembered the scene of Albertini letting him press on, but not passing the ball to him. Instead, he had passed the ball to Viduka. Honestly, he had not even anticipated it. He had not seem Viduka's position while he was pressing on. Furthermore, he was even facing Viduka; Albertini's back was to him. How had he known that Viduka was inside the penalty area?
And there was also the long pass in the first half. It was so accurate! He had never kicked a pass that was more than fifteen meters long, but the team captain's pass was estimated to be fifty meters! He seemed to know in advance that area had no opponents, and knew in advance that Ashley Young would run up, and then he had timed his pass perfectly. It was amazing!
Wood almost never admired anyone, and would not say good things about others. However, at this time, he sincerely admired his team captain and mentor who did not speak much English.
Just as he had snapped out of his thoughts, the Forest team's corner ball was kicked.
Lehmann did not feel reassured by the center back, Cygan. He stood in between the two men and struck out Albertini's corner. Fbregas beautifully dropped the ball outside the penalty area. George Wood was still in the Forest team's midfield area. Now no one could threaten him, and he could finally handle the ball comfortably.
Henry was starting to make a move!
He scanned this point from the corner of his eye, immediately shot a direct pass and sent the football accurately to the foot of the team captain.
"Arsenal counterattacks! Their speed is incredible!"
The Forest players ran back as if their lives depended on it, but for a veteran like Hierro, the mind was willing, but the body was powerless.
"The Forest team's singlehanded shot boosted the players' morale, and almost everyone rushed up for the corner ball; maybe they thought that they were close to scoring a goal but now, the Forest team's large-scale pressure made the Arsenal players feel like they're closer to the goal!"
"Now, except for the goalkeeper, Darren Ward, the only Forest players in the backfield are the left back, Leighton Baines, and George Wood! Arsenal's counterattack is swift. Except for Henry, Pennant and Pirs have quickly followed up, three against two! An excellent opportunity for Arsenal not to be missed!"
As Taylor was shouting excitedly, Twain was not excited at all. He cursed, "Damn it!"
He suddenly remembered one of Henry's goals. It was Arsenal against Tottenham Hotspur. Tottenham Hotspur's throw-in ball was headed by one of the Arsenal players; then Henry received the ball in the midfield, and began a long-range raid. Through the change of speed and rhythm, he continuously flashed past the interception of Matthew Etherington, Stephen Carr, Ledley King and other Tottenham Hotspur players, and finally shot the ball into the Tottenham Hotspur's goal, which helped Arsenal win with a score of 3:0.
That had happened in November 2002. Was he going to replicate it in the City Ground in 2004?
Ribry chased Henry at full speed and dived behind the opponent to shovel him, at the risk of getting a red card.
It was as if Henry had eyes on the back of his head. He accelerated the ball forward, then jumped just in time to escape Ribry's dive, and continued to move forward!
Everyone in the stands, whether they were Forest fans or Arsenal fans, all stood up from their seats.
Would this be another magnificent goal for the Arsenal fans to relish? Or were the forest fans about to be humiliated?
"Henry broke through Ribry! Now, the only man in his way is George Wood!"
George Wood looked up at Henry, who was driving the ball towards him, and did not show any confusion or panic. There was no time for him to do such a thing. Henry was charging like the wind.
Do I commit a foul? Or should I
Henry would not give Wood time to make a choice. He suddenly slowed down and let Wood think that he was about to do a feint to bypass him. Wood was fooled, and lowered his center of gravity.
Henry was delighted to see this. He was the most frustrated person in this game. The Arsenal midfield was completely restrained by the destructive play of the Forest team, and was unable to support him effectively. And when he had finally gotten the ball after much difficulty, he was surrounded by the Forest players and it was hard to break through. Now it would all be okay; as long as he bypassed this kid in front of him, it would be wide open ahead!
Wood had just dropped his center of gravity when he saw Henry suddenly poke the ball outwards and then speed up! He overtook him from the side!
"And he has broken through!"
He had forced a breakthrough!
Wood's reaction was also quick. The cheers of the Arsenal fans had just begun to ring out when he turned around and chased Henry.
He did not give up; he did not know how to give up. All he knew was that Twain had told him to keep the defensive line safe, not to let his opponents break through right in front of him, and he had to do it. This is my job. If I can't do this, how am I supposed to get paid?
With this in mind, Wood pounced towards Henry.
"Oh, no! He didn't shake him off! The distance between George Wood and Henry isn't widening!" Andy Gray exclaimed. Even he did not think that George Wood's speed was on par with Henry's, who was widely recognized as a speedy striker.
"Get past him!!" The Arsenal fans leaned forward and shouted in the stands.
"Stop him!" The Forest fans roared, waving their fists.
Henry was a little surprised to find himself entangled again. He knew it was that Number 13, whom he had not expected to be so tenacious. He decided to switch gears again, and stopped suddenly. He pushed the ball slightly leftward with the outside of his left foot; Wood missed his aim and overshot. Henry started again and was going to catch up with the football, thinking that he should have completely shaken off this troublesome shadow now.
After Wood found that he had missed his target, he came to a sudden stop as well, and then turned around, hurled himself across, and dived towards the ball at the fastest speed he could muster.
He might lack experience in his technique compared to Henry, but in terms of physical fitness, he would not lose out to anyone.
The football was rolling in front of Henry; as long as he could get over to it, he could do it with a single shot....
Suddenly, a foot cut in front of his eyes, and the football was swept by that foot and flew out!
When Henry jumped up to avoid the leg, he saw that the man lying on the ground was Number 13!
Howcanthisbepossible?! Where did he come from? I clearly shook him off! He couldn't possibly have show up again!
The seasoned Henry stared wide-eyed at George Wood, and watched him get up from the ground and stagger along to kick the football in front of him out of the sideline, despite the fact that there was no other Arsenal player apart from him. He could take control of the ball and seize the opportunity to give Arsenal a chance to fight back.
"What a hero! George Wood!!"
Gray used the tone reserved for cheering after a goal to shout Wood's name.
When Henry first had begun to speed up his dribbling, bypass Ribry, and charge across the center circle, who would have had the slightest confidence that Wood could stop the King of Arsenal from moving forward?
When Henry was switching gears between fast and slow to break through him, who would believe that this kid could still turn around and stick to him?
When Henry used the sudden stop to make Wood overshoot, how many people had already thought that Henry had succeeded?
The kid had done it. Even though nobody knew how, he had surprised everyone. He successfully defended against a world-class striker in a one-on-one defense of the rapid dribbler, Henry.
The moment when they saw him turn around to intercept the ball from an impossible position, forcing Henry to jump up, was even more exciting than watching a goal being scored!
The fans felt the same way. The chants of "Wood! Wood!" over the City Ground were louder than the ones that had come after Eastwood's goal.
Albertini rushed back and hugged Wood. He then slapped him on the back and shouted repeatedly, "Well done! Well done!"
He almost gave up when he was still running forward at that moment, and many of his teammates probably had the same thought. But George Wood's performance spurred them, and they sped up their slowing pace. They gritted their teeth and ran back, panting, to their defensive positions.
Met with Albertini's praise, George Wood did not have a happy expression on his face, but his heart was a little excited.
This feels terrific!