Tag Archives: European Champions League

Three goals, three points as Arsenal recovers some mojo

Arsenal moved to the top of its Champions League group with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Greek champs Olympiacos, but will be weary after a turgid first-half performance.

Goals from Gervinho, Lukas Podolski and substitute Aaron Ramsey ultimately cancelled out Kostas Mitroglu’s headed equaliser but only after a stern talking to by stand-in manager Steve Bould at half-time.

Arsenal were pretty ordinary in the opening exchanges, still a bit bruised from their home loss against Chelsea last weekend. That match saw Laurent Koscielny receive a bit of a tanning in a disorganised back line, but Per Mertesacker fell ill in the lead-up to the game, meaning the Frenchman kept his place.

Santi Cazorla had a chance from a free kick, out wide on the left with players waiting, but decided to go for it himself from the tight angle, forcing the Olympiacos keeper into a sharp save.

But the rest of the half was almost uneventful, until the last 10 minutes. Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen both got their zones mixed up and missed headers from a right wing cross, which fell to Machado, only for the midfielder to scoop it over the bar from six yards out.

Moments later, Arsenal were ahead. Podolski scuttled won the left flank before sliding a pass across the edge of the box towards Gervinho, who let it bobble on to Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard stopped the ball into Gervinho’s path, who evaded three defenders to make space and fire home from outside the area.

It was a good finish from the once-upon-a-time shot-shy forward, and showed our pre-season promise to shoot a bit more from outside the box. Continue reading

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Arsenal get lucky with three points in the bag

Arsenal’s Champions League campaign got off and running with maximum points, but only after a difficult examination from French champions Montpellier at the Stade de la Mosson.

Despite establishing the upper hand in the first 10 minutes, Thomas Vermaelen contrived to concede a penalty after going in for the challenge on Younes Belhanda in the box, only to make contact with the forward’s foot rather than the ball. The gifted Moroccan put away the cheekiest of penalties that seemed to stay in the air for an age before nestling in the back of the net.

But as quickly as it took for us to find ourselves behind, we were even quicker to work our way in front. Lukas Podolski capped off a stunning counter with the equaliser after Santi Cazorla pinged a pass to Olivier Giroud, who’s delicate touch found the German forward all on his own in the box. Podolski, cool as liquid nitrogen, feinted a shot to wrong foot the keeper and lash home for 1-1.

Two minutes later, Arsenal was in the lead after Gervinho angled a great run from the right-hand side towards the middle as the ball found its way to Carl Jenkinson on the flank. The young right back hit an excellent low cross as Gervinho continued his run, leaving him with a simple finish from two yards out to make it 2-1.

Arsenal were pretty much on top for the majority of the first half, but chances were rare. Gibbs made a run up the flank before unloading a cross in Giroud’s direction, but the centre wasn’t quite right as the forward tried a difficult volley that went high over the bar.

The Belhanda penalty: jump for it, Mannone!

Continue reading

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Montpellier scratching our complacency itch

Once again, Arsenal embarks on yet another (ill-fated?) Champions League campaign. That’s 15 consecutive qualifications under Arsene Wenger. The naysayers will point to the fact all it has yielded is one runner-up gong, but all you have to do is look at how robbed Spurs felt with Chelsea stealing their entry from them, or how hard they celebrated on the one occasion they did qualify.

As an opening fixture, we have French champions Montpellier (pronunciation guide!) to contend with. It comes before we take on English champions Man City this weekend, followed by European champions Chelsea soon after. Rotation will play a factor in selection, but given there is a five-day gap until the following fixture, I anticipate only minor tweaks. The first team will be pushed to the limit in the league, before getting a small break in our first League Cup match against Coventry.

The team will have arrived in France ahead of our first Champions League clash with Olivier Giroud’s former club, and you can expect our new striker to start on his old hunting ground. The pressure on him to score has been enormous, possibly more than other new arrivals over the years given the player he was replacing. Nevertheless, almost no-one in the Arsenal camp is buying the ‘flop’ label opponents have dished out, given he has only started twice and come off the bench on two other occasions. Tonight, against his former club with whom he won Ligue 1, will be the perfect opportunity to banish a few gremlins. Continue reading

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