More European soccer violence

Arsenal’s well-deserved 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers in today’s FA Cup semi-final showed that the Gunners can play brilliant soccer even without Thierry Henry, but the game was also marred in the last minute by the cheapest shot I’ve seen in sports since Warren Sapp took out Chad Clifton.

Rob van Persie, the young Dutch international, had an incredible eight-minute game, scoring twice after coming on for Dennis Bergkamp in the 82nd minute to seal the win, but just as his second goal went in the net, Andy Tod, Blackburn’s captain, not only ran into him but simultaneously threw an elbow to the side of his neck. Van Persie was turning into the direction from which Tod was coming, so it was a vicious blow even by NHL standards.

Fortunately, the Arsenal striker was all right, but it was an ugly end to what was otherwise an entertaining game. One thing that I particularly liked was how after the final whistle blew and the Arsenal players were heading for the locker room, Dennis Bergkamp – who has long been my favorite player – stopped van Persie as he came off the field. (You have to keep in mind that van Persie was not only Bergkamp’s substitute today but is also considered his successor and this may be Bergkamp’s final year at Arsenal.)

Bergkamp turned the younger guy around – who was still bleeding at the mouth – and first pointed to the stands, then to the center of the field, and gave him a little push in the back. He was clearly saying something to the effect of “they’re cheering for you, kid,” Van Persie jogged out to the middle and acknowledged the roaring crowd, then, as he ran back to join the rest of the team, took his shirt off and hurled it into the stands.

An interesting juxtaposition of great sporting class and its total lack.