Arsenal let a two goal lead slip in a 2-2 draw away to Schalke last night. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger dropped Brazilian Andre Santos and brought in Laurent Koscielny to partner Per Mertesacker in defence, with Thomas Vermaelen switching from centre back to left back for the night.
Arsenal looked shaky in the opening 15 minutes or so as Christian Fuchs had a shot deflected wide, Ibrahim Afellay forced a good save out of Vito Mannone and Benedikt Howedes’ header went over the bar.
Arsenal took the lead in the 18th minute against the run of play. Mertesacker sent the ball upfield which was headed on by a Schalke defender into the path of Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman hesitated and it looked as if the chance had gone, but the ball fell kindly for Walcott after Howedes’ came sliding in and Walcott tapped the ball into the net for his 50th Arsenal goal.
The visitors extended the lead in the 26th minute. Arsenal played well after scoring and were looking dangerous. Lukas Podolski’s cross was met by Olivier Giroud, who scored with a diving header. That was the Frenchman’s first Champions League goal for the Gunners and he looked delighted. Arsenal were 2-0 up and suddenly looked fairly comfortable.
Arsenal needed to get to half time without conceding. In the last minute of first half stoppage time, Santi Cazorla lost the ball, allowing Lewis Holtby to play in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who fired the ball past Mannone. At that moment I knew Arsenal had let Schalke back in this game. The noisy crowd had been quiet due to Arsenal’s two goal lead. Everything was going in the Gunners favour, but a mistake by Cazorla helped let the Germans back in it.
Giroud had a good chance early in the second half, volleying over the bar, but after that Schalke began to search for an equaliser. A fine save by Vito Mannone denied Huntelaar a second goal when he was one-on-one with the Italian. Mikel Arteta then saved the day by getting his body in the way of a goalbound shot on the line. Mannone was again tested by Holtby and Afellay by Jefferson Farfan saw his shot go into the net off of Arsenal’s captain Thomas Vermaelen.
Both sides were tired at the end but Arsenal had the best chance through Walcott, after he escaped the Schalke defender, his weak shot was saved by the goalkeeper. That was that. Before the game I would have taken a point, but after taking a 2-0 lead I can’t help but feel disappointed. Arsenal are still in a decent position to qualify, just maybe not top of the group now. Olympiakos will prove tough opposition and are certainly in the race for qualification out of the group after beating Montpellier yesterday.