Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Arsenal Draw 1-1 Away To Borussia Dortmund In The Champions League

Arsenal got their Champions League campaign underway last night with a trip to Germany to play the current Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund. It was always going to be a tough game for Arsenal with their team still struggling to play together as a unit since all the comings and goings in the summer. A win would have been a great boost for them, but it was vitally important that they took something out of the game.

As it transpired they got a draw on the night, but in true Arsenal fashion they let in the equalising goal with only two minutes left. Arsenal had taken the lead three minutes before half time from a Robin Van Persie effort , and they looked like they had weathered the Dortmund storm in the second half. However Ivan Perisic scored a fantastic goal when he put the ball in the top corner of the net from a volley outside the box and they deserved the point.

The Arsenal team was as I had predicted with Alex Song, Yossi Benayoun and Gervinho coming in for Emmanuel Frimpong, Aaron Ramsey and Andrey Arshavin. It was probably the strongest team Arsenal could play on the night, and they got a very welcome result. There were times during the game where Arsenal looked very ragged, but they kept trying and working hard and got their reward in the end.

Early on it looked to be a very open game and the Arsenal defence was caught out far too easily on a few occasions. Arsenal found it hard to keep possession and with the defence pushing up Dortmund found space in behind them. Thankfully they never really tested Wojciech Szczesny with any of their opportunities, and when he was called into action he looked confident and assured.

Arsenal gradually started to play better with Benayoun visibly growing into the game, and Song doing some very good defensive work. Robin Van Persie was a little isolated up front, but he was working very hard for the team and he got his reward in the 42nd minute.

He slid in to win the ball in the Dortmund half, and then made a run behind their defence for Theo Walcott to pick him out. He was through on the right hand side with only the keeper to beat, and he finished very well with his "chocolate leg". It was a great boost for the team and with half time arriving soon afterwards they had something to hold on to.

Arsenal dropped back a little in the second half and invited Dortmund on to them. The tactic seemed to be working as the game progressed with Dortmund looking less likely to score as time went by. There were a couple of scares for Arsenal, but Szczesny looked like he couldn't be beaten on the night.

Just as it looked like Arsenal would take all three points against the odds Dortmund scored a goal which probably won't be bettered for the rest of the season. Per Mertesacker headed the ball clear from the Arsenal penalty area and it fell to Perisic who volleyed it first time right into the "postage stamp" in the top corner of the goal. Time seemed to stand still as the ball drifted into the top corner, and the Dortmund fans almost didn't realise it had gone in.

It was a bad blow for Arsenal, but it was important that they held on for the four added minutes to at least claim a point on the road. They just about managed to do so, but a draw away from home to their toughest opponents in the group is a good result in my opinion.Their next Champions League game is at home to Olympiakos in two weeks time, and it's a must win game for Arsenal.

Olympiakos were beaten 1-0 at home by Marseille last night, and they have now lost seven Champions League games in a row. A win against them would leave Arsenal in a strong position before the double header against Marseille which will probably be the games to decide their fate in the group. Despite Arsenal not hitting anywhere near their best form yet I am confident that they will beat Olympiakos.

Arsene Wenger's UEFA touchline ban didn't adversely affect the team last night, as Pat Rice did a good job. Wenger still has one more game left in his ban and at least it's what should be the easiest game they will play in the group. The sheer pettiness and stupidity of the ban defies logic, but since when have the football authorities ever used logic in their rulings.

When the group finishes in early December the result against Dortmund last night could well be seen as a crucial one for Arsenal. I don't think Dortmund will drop any more points at home, and Arsenal were probably a little lucky to get a point on the night despite the late goal from Dortmund. A little more of that luck would go a long way, as the team gradually begin to find their feet this season.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights from last night's game.

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