Kamis, 20 Oktober 2011
MARSEILLE 0 ARSENAL 1
The Gunners were again nowhere near their zippy best as they struggled to make an impact in Marseille.
Arsenal weren’t terrible, but like so often in their travels in the Champions League, their game lacked a cutting edge.
At least it did until stoppage time when three of their substitutes combined to snatch victory.
Johan Djourou crossed from the right, Gervinho touched the ball on and Aaron Ramsey collected on the left and fired in the only goal of the game to take Arsenal to the top of Group F.
To be fair Marseille did not exactly go hell for leather, preferring to try to catch Arsenal on the break.
Consequently Arsene Wenger’s men remained cautious and it was not a pretty sight as both sides laboured to create opportunities.
It did not start well for Arsenal with Alex Song getting booked in the fourth minute.
Giving the ball away to Loic Remy, he chopped down the striker as he pushed towards goal, leaving referee Damir Skomina not option but to caution him.
Fortunately Mathieu Valbuena’s free-kick bent right into Wojceich Szczesny’s hands.
Then in the 13th minute Marseille could easily have had a penalty. Left-back Jeremy Morel’s cross struck Carl Jenkinson’s right arm with the Arsenal youngster doing little to get it out of the way.
Andre Ayew was so angry he was booked for his protests, followed not long afterwards by Arsenal’s Santos for an agricultural barge into Valbuena.
Arsenal put the French team under pressure for a decent spell and following a Mikel Arteta corner Souleymane Diawara had to nod Robin van Persie’s header off the line in the 21st minute.
Seven minures later Arsenal suffered a blow when Jenkinson hurt his right knee, but after treatment he continued.
There was a further scare three minutes later when Remy beat Per Mertesacker then Jenkinson near the byline.
But Jenkinson did enough to put Remy off as he tried to get in his shot.
Then Laurent Kosciely did well to tackle the dangerous Remy –a long-term Arsenal target – as the striker burst into the box.
Valbuena’s cross was flicked just wide by Lucho Gonzalez, then Santos risked a red card with a lunge on Valbuena, but referee Skomina was lenient.
Santos was again lucky when he looked to deliberately handball.
A free-kick was given, but no second yellow and the Brazilian could consider himself fortunate to be on the pitch as the referee blew the whistle for half-time seconds later.
The half was a huge disappointment with Arsenal moving the ball without any urgency or crispness. At times it was just like watching England!
Soon after the restart Diawara was booked for clattering into Andrey Arshavin.
In the 62nd minute Djourou came on for Jenkinson, whose right knee problem flared when he made a clearance.
Van Persie had a tame left-foot effort on target a minute later, the first time home keeper Steve Mandanda had to save.
Soon after Walcott dispossessed Alou Diarra in the box and did well to stretch and poke a right-foot shot which Mandanda kept out with his feet at the near post.
It was a promising little burst for Arsenal as they looked for the win they needed to overtake Marseille at the top of the table.
Last season the Gunners could only finish second in their group and consequently drew Barcelona in the first knockout stage.
Their 1,400 travelling fans hoped to see some daylight with a victory and in the 67th minute Wenger made an attacking switch, sending on former Lille star Gervinho for Walcott, who again frustrated with his lack of a decent final ball on the right flank.
Gervinho’s first involvement was to stray offside and there remained precious little cutting edge from either side.
But in stoppage time he fed Van Persie only for the captain’s low shot to be blocked by Mandanda at his near post
Then in the last minute Djourou crossed, Gervinho touched it on and Ramsey fired home to top off Arsenal’s night.
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