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FOOTBALL

Fighting Arsenal reach last eight

LONDON, England -- Arsenal knocked nine-times winners Real Madrid out of the Champions League on Wednesday as a goalless Highbury draw was enough to send the Londoners into the quarterfinals 1-0 on aggregate.

Arsenal dominated the first half but failed to take their chances, the best falling to Jose Antonio Reyes who fired against the bar in the 43rd minute.

Real went agonisingly close on the hour when Raul smacked an 18-meter half-volley against a post then saw keeper Jens Lehmann somehow claw his follow-up past the upright.

Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, scorer of the only goal in the Bernabeu, twice went close in the last 20 minutes as both teams threw men forward in increasing desperation but neither could find the net, much to Arsenal's satisfaction.

"It's amazing (to go through)," said Henry.

"Once again, we are going through to the quarterfinals and we can relax a bit for two weeks in the competition.

"It was tremendous. I think you saw today that with great desire and commitment you can achieve a lot of stuff."

England captain David Beckham said that Real could not have done more to try and go through.

"I don't think we could have thrown anything more at them than we did. They defended exceptionally and we just couldn't break them down.

"I expected a few goals but overall I wish them good luck because they are a good team.

"My first time back in London, I wanted it to be a bit special.

"There are always going to be questions asked when a team this big hasn't won anything for one season let alone three seasons."

Ronaldo's previous appearance on an English ground had ended with him being substituted to rapturous applause at Old Trafford after scoring a hat-trick.

But if Arsenal fans feared a similar master-class, their concerns proved groundless.

He was more effective than at the Bernabeu a fortnight ago, but this was still the disaffected Ronaldo who has spoken of his lack of rapport with the Madrid fans.

Magnificent challenge

That said, it took a quite magnificent challenge from Gilberto to deny him in his shooting stride on the quarter-hour.

After that nervous opening, Arsenal came to have the better of the first half, repeatedly advancing to the edge of the Madrid box.

It was Michel Salgado's back that got in the way of Jose Antonio Reyes's effort after an Henry cutback just before the half-hour.

The same combination created the best chance of the half two minutes before the break, Henry perhaps delaying his pass fractionally too long, leaving Reyes to snatch at his chance.

He beat Iker Casillas, but his drive thumped against the crossbar.

Having failed to score when they had the advantage, there were always going to be nervous moments for Arsenal in the second half, none more so than the incident on the hour.

Raul, arriving on the edge of the box, smacked his shot against the inside of the post, but gathered the rebound, only for Lehmann to rise from his prone position and shove his follow-up wide.

Lehmann's save had Arsene Wenger praising the oft-criticised German.

"Jens when he made that save changed the game. It was at a moment when I felt we had dropped a little bit physically. You know when you play against Real Madrid your keeper will have to make at one save at least in the game.

"Football is full of surprises. If you had told me before that we play two games against Real Madrid, with a whole defense nearly out, and not concede a goal that shows you how remarkable the spirit has been in the team."

Arsenal's season is still alive.

However Madrid's looks all but dead with them trailing 10 points behind bitter rivals Barcelona in the league race.

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