Arsenal qualified for the knock-out stages of the Champions League with a hard fought 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund this evening.
The first half was a scrappy affair with both teams cancelling each other out for the most part. Neither side was able to maintain possession for long periods. Arsenal struggled to hold onto it as Dortmund pressed high up the pitch at all times, while the German side were happy to sit back and try and catch Arsenal on the break.
Dortmund were dealt two first half injury blows. After a clash with Thomas Vermaelen’s heel left him bleeding heavily, Dortmund were forced to pull off Bender, and a few moments later they lost Gotze, leaving a big hole in the team.
Arsenal had the ball in the net in the 41st minute but Theo Walcott’s run was just too early and he was rightly given offside by the linesman. A few moments later great work between Walcott and Arteta saw the England international whip in a great cross towards Robin van Persie at the back post but Weidenfeller just got a hand to it to prevent the chance.
The German side started the second half very brightly, twice causing danger for the Arsenal defence, especially when Kagawa found himself with a clear sight of goal. His angle was tight, however, and Szczesny made the save easily enough.
Arsenal then took the lead through Robin van Persie. The captain may get all the plaudits for his goalscoring but Alex Song deserves huge credit for setting up the chance. He drove down the left hand side, showed quick feet to leave two Dortmund defenders in his wake and van Persie headed in the cross despite Weidenfeller getting a touch. 1-0 Arsenal.
The Gunners should have been 2-0 up when Ramsey played Gervinho clean through. The Ivorian showed he still has to work on his compsure and decision making in these positions and as he tried to make his mind up the Dortmund defenders got back and snuffed out the chance.
The game got a bit tense with some bookings. Schmeldzer was involved in an incident with Ramsey and then booked for a foul on Walcott, while Theo got booked for fronting up to a linesman rather too vigorously.
Arsenal brought on Benayoun for Gervinho and the Israeli almost found his way through but it was an old fashioned Arsenal goal that sealed the points. When an Arteta free kick deflected off the wall and out for a corner the Spaniard fizzed it into the near post, Vermaelen flicked it on like a common Steve Bould and van Persie was waiting at the back post for the simple finish to make it 2-0.
We blotted our defensive copybook late on when Song and Djourou conspired to give the ball away near our corner flag, resulting in a late Dortmund goal, but there was no time for the visitors to get another. A clean sheet would have been nice, as we defended very well – Andre Santos in particular had a very effective night – but a clean sheet wasn’t the important thing.
It was a hard fought victory but one that Arsenal deserved. It means we top the group, become the first English side to qualify for the knock-out stages, and that we can rest players and enjoy the trip to Olympiacos (who beat Marseille).
Overall, a pleasing night.