Thursday, 4 October 2012

Arsenal 3-1 Olympiacos

Arsenal played Olympiacos last night in their second group game of this seasons Champions League. They had beaten Montpellier 2-1 away from home in their first game and another win would leave them in an ideal situation in their group.

With Arsene Wenger serving the second game of his ridiculous UEFA ban Steve Bould was again the man in charge on the night. There were two changes from the team which lost 2-1 at home to Chelsea in the Premier League last Saturday. With Abou Diaby injured Frances Coquelin came into the side and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Aaron Ramsey on the right side of the attacking trio.

The first half wasn't much to write home about, but Arsenal managed to take the lead as half time approached. Gervinho collected a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area and struck it sweetly into the corner past the keeper's dive. Arsenal didn't really deserve to be ahead at that stage and their lead didn't last too long either.

In added time at the end of the first half Olympiacos leveled the game. A cross was swung in from the left and it was met with a glancing header into the corner of the net by Kostas Mistroglou. Nobody closed down the player who crossed the ball and Mistroglou found it far too easy to get his header in too.

It may not have been a goal from a set piece, but Arsenal conceded yet another goal from a ball crossed into their penalty area. So far every goal they have conceded this season has come from a set piece or a cross, but no team has really managed to play their way through the Arsenal defence. If they can sort out their defending on set pieces and crosses their defence will be a formidable one.

The scores were level at half time and Arsenal needed to find something extra in the second half. They tried to pick up the pace but their opponents were able to match them. It looked like it was going to take something special or a mistake to decide the game in either team's favour.

It was Arsenal who managed the all important next goal with 11 minutes gone in that second half. Gervinho cut the ball back for Lukas Podolski and his crisp shot made it's way into the net via the keeper's heel. The shot was going in anyway but the deflection off the keeper could have gone anywhere.

Thankfully for Arsenal it ended up in the net and their lead was restored. Olympiacos assumed control after that as they went in search of an equaliser. After losing their opening game at home to Schalke they knew they had to get something from this game.

Arsenal defended well and looked to hit Olympiacos on the break. There were a couple of chances for Arsenal, but Laurent Koscielny missed the best of them from a header six yards out when he really should have scored. As the clock ran down both teams made changes in personnel.

Theo Walcott came on for Chamberlain in the Arsenal team mid-way through the half. With 10 minutes remaining Olivier Giroud replaced Gervinho and Ramsey came on for Podolski. Arsenal had a lead to protect and they did all they could to eat up precious seconds and minutes.

As Olympiacos tired it was Arsenal who looked the more likely to score again, and they eventually did in the last minute of added time. Vito Mannone kicked long to the head of Giroud and his neat flick put Ramsey through with just one defender to beat. He skipped past his challenge and chipped the ball over the on rushing keeper in true Carlos Vela style.

The final whistle went as soon as Olympiacos scored and it was a little flattering to Arsenal. They had worked hard but never really found any rhythm throughout the game. It leaves Arsenal on top of the group with six points from two games after Schalke drew 2-2 at home to Montpellier.

Next up for Arsenal will be back to back games against Schalke and four points in those two games would surely be enough to see them through to the knockout stages. The first of those games is at home on October 24 with a couple of league games and an international break to come first.

Despite continuing to frustrate at times Gervinho scored his fifth goal of the season and justified his selection with an assist also. I'm far from convinced by him but he continues to produce despite looking like he doesn't know what he's doing far too often.

Mannone was far from convincing in goal again and the return of Wojciech Szczesny is eagerly anticipated by Arsenal fans. He could do nothing about the goal Arsenal conceded, but he looks increasingly uncertain and nervous. Hopefully Szczesny can return to first team duty after the international break.

Giroud only got 10 minutes to show what he can do but he almost scored a couple of goals. His flick on for Ramsey's goal was real route one football, but it's certainly a viable plan "B" for Arsenal if their usual style isn't working. Arsenal have often been criticised for only playing the one way, but Giroud offers an alternative if the wide players can run into good positions for his knock-ins or flicks.

One of the strangest things on the night was the continued charges forward by Thomas Vermaelen. With the game nearly over he was still looking to burst forward when defending should have been his first objective. As captain he should be the one reminding others of their responsibilities on the pitch, but maybe somebody needs to remind him.

It's back to Premier League action for Arsenal on Saturday with a trip to West Ham in the evening kick off. West Ham have started very well and are currently above Arsenal in the table. Three points before the players head off to play for their countries would be the ideal way for Arsenal to finish off the week.

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

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment