A weakened Arsenal side fell 2-1 to Olympiakos in their final group game in the Champions League. The Gunners could now face the likes of Barcelona, PSG or Borussia Dortmund in the next round of the Champions League having failed to top their group.
Arsenal started brightly enough with Gervinho, Marouane Chamakh and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain squandering early chances before Aaron Ramsey made a mess of a great chance.
Arsenal’s defence had youngster Jernade Meade start at left-back. He put in a very good shift and looked very good compared to our back-up left-back Andre Santos. Meade should be given a chance in the first-team when Kieran Gibbs is injured (which is often!). Carl Jenkinson started at right-back, whilst captain Thomas Vermaelen partnered Sebastien Squillaci in central defence. Squillaci was making his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt since February. Olympiakos came close to breaking the deadlock but for Tomas Rosicky to clear off the line to deny Pablo Contreras.
Olympiakos had put on the pressure for a while, but Arsenal stayed strong at the back and looked capable of scoring going forward. Tomas Rosicky had already saved Arsenal from going behind at the other end and in the 38th minute he gave the Gunners the lead. Gervinho’s cut-back allowed Rosicky to steer in an impressive first-time finish. The Czech midfielder has only been back since Saturday, having injured himself at the European Championships in the summer. He showed Arsenal fans what the team had been missing with a fine display before being replaced at the half by Andrei Arshavin.
At the half, if the scores stayed the same, Arsenal would qualify as group winners. The Gunners lead in Greece along with the fact Schalke were drawing 0-0 with Montpellier would have been enough for Arsenal to top their group.
Arshavin had a couple of chances himself that could have killed the Greeks off, but the Russian failed to score either.
However, news came through that Schalke had taken the lead in France before a few minutes later news came in of Montpellier’s equaliser. Shortly following this of course came Olympiakos levelling the scores in Arsenal’s game. Olympiakos’ equaliser was controversial. Paulo Machado’s header hit the post and went out for what appeared to be a goal kick. A corner was given. From the resulting corner, the ball came off Squillaci from a header and Maniatis managed to force the ball past Szczesny.
Rafik Djebbour went close for the hosts before substitute Konstantinos Mitroglou curled home a beautiful winner. Mitroglou was the player that scored for Olympiakos when they played the reverse fixture in October. That was about it. I felt the positives from the game to take were that despite the result, we are through. You see Man City finish bottom in their group and also Chelsea are struggling with theirs, so it’s not all bad. Meade played very well, Rosicky looked very good in the first half and Chamakh worked very hard I felt. Vermaelen was highlighted on ITV as a stand out player for the right reasons, he certainly didn’t play badly. It was pretty well as expected, I didn’t expect us to win there and quite frankly I am glad we didn’t get hammered. Onto West Brom, a game that I fear we may well struggle in!.