February 14th, 2007 - Valentines Day. Bolton v Arsenal. 4th round FA cup replay, Reebok stadium. The game kicked off tentatively, both teams feeling the tension in the air.
At the same time, Marge was gathering the ingredients for some pumpkin scones she had seen on Nigella Lawson's show.
The Bolton players had a sense of purpose about them, hoping to capitalise on the fact that Arsenal were without the talismanic Thierry Henry and their young, Portugese playmaker Cesc Fabregas.
The TV was loud enough for Marge to hear every word of the commentary as she cut through the pumpkin skin with a freshly sharpened knife.
The Gunners looked smooth and efficient from the beginning and managed to string together series of meaningful passes to create chances, the best one early on being Rosicky’s bullet shot which went a couple feet wide of the left post.
Having diced the pumpkin methodically into small pieces, Marge put them carefully into a Tupperware bowl which she placed in the microwave. She poured in just a little water, closed the lid, shut the microwave door and set it cooking.
Arsenal were playing with a lot of width with Bolton having very little early possession and Bolton’s physical play being tactfully avoided by the Arsenal midfield tandem of Rosicky and Denilson.
Marge caressed cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar into the floury mixture with practised fingers.
Arsenal began to dominate, creating chances and harrying Bolton’s defence.
Carefully, Marge smoothed the soft mixture into heart-shaped moulds. When she was finished, there would be 46 of them, one for each year stretching back to 1961.
The two teams slowly started to serve up a footballing masterpiece in a first half filled with incidents.
Marge, however, was far from serving up a masterpiece. The ingredients had come together and the mixture had looked rich and tempting. Then the oven had gone out.
Goal! Emmanuel Adebayor provided a brilliant finish to some neat passing from Hleb, Denilson and Rosicky.
Marge wrestled with the infernal contraption for a long time before slamming the oven door and cursing.
Penalty! Arsenal had a chance to kill the game off in the 62nd minute when Bolton defender, Ben Haim, fouled Julio Baptista in the box. The resulting penalty was skied high into the night by stand-in Arsenal captain Gilberto Silva.
Fred thought about helping his wife, but dared not leave his armchair for fear of missing some action on the screen.
Bolton were lifted by the Brazilian’s mistake but failed to make any notable incursion into the Arsenal half, except for Stelios Giannakopolous hesitating in the box when he should have squared the ball earlier to his unmarked team mate, allowing Arsenal keeper Almunia to gather.
Marge pinched the bridge of her nose, remembering back to when she had discovered that baking calmed her nerves. She gave up on the oven and rummaged through her cupboards. After a while she lifted out a heavy iron pan and inspected it closely, scratching her chin.
It was a night when it seemed Arsenal were trying their utmost to throw it all away. They were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal when Bolton scored an equalizer in the 92nd minute from a corner kick which Abdoulaye Meite stabbed home. Extra time beckoned.
The front door slammed behind Marge, momentarily covering the sound of the TV.
The first period of extra time was devoid of notable incidents.
Fred continued to sit motionless, slumped in his armchair in front of the game.
The 2nd period of extra time saw Ben Haim sent off, Freddie Ljungberg put Arsenal 2-1 in front, Julio Baptista repeat Gilberto Silva’s penalty miss, and a swift Arsenal counter-attack where Baptista squared the ball to Adebayor to tap into an empty net and make it 3-1 to Arsenal. Game over.
The distant sound of a car engine filtered into the house, as Marge drove down to the local supermarket. She found some scones in the bakery section before wandering the household products aisle in search of some extra strength carpet cleaner.
Next up for Arsenal on Saturday the 17th of February, 2007, is Blackburn in the 5th round of the FA cup at the Emirates stadium in London.