Arsenal surrendered a first half lead in Athens as Olympiacos scored twice in eight minutes to win 2-1. The Gunners had taken the lead through Tomas Rosicky but goals from Giannis Maniatis and Kostas Mitroglou condemned Arsene Wenger’s side to their third loss in three Champions League encounters at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
There was a first start for youngster Jernade Meade in an Arsenal team that looked rag-tag on the team sheet, and no place for Andrei Arshavin who sat with three other As on the bench (Angha, Akpom and Ansah).
The Gunners started brightly and had the first attempt of the game inside the first minute when Gervinho flashed a shot high and wide, albeit under some pressure. The Ivorian then found Chamakh in the box after good build up play but the Moroccan showed signs of understandable rustiness allowing the home side to clear.
In the 11th minute Thomas Vermaelen showed good determination to prevent a tap-in for Djebbour after Olympiacos made a good break down our right hand side, before a Coquelin through ball looked to have played in Chamakh but he had strayed offside.
Arsenal had a good chance to go ahead in the 17th minute when Chamakh headed down an Oxlade-Chamberlain cross, Olympiacos fluffed their lines presenting the ball to Aaron Ramsey on the penalty spot but he miskicked when he should have at least hit the target.
From an Olympiacos corner Tomas Rosicky cleared a header off the line but it looked as if Szczesny had it covered in any event. The keeper then pulled off a good save as Olympiacos found space in the Arsenal box, before Torossidis fired well over the bar after excellent midfield play from Abdoun.
The same player then clipped a cross shot not far wide after a promising Arsenal move broke down with Chamakh. The Morrocan was then unlucky not to be played in by Gervinho having held the ball up well but the forehead was unable to lift his gigantic head and spot the run.
Then, after a great crossfield ball by Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gervinho headed back across goal when Ramsey was just outside him on the overlap, but the Ivorian made up for it by setting up an Arsenal goal. He drove into the box, turned back inside, played it back to the onrushing Tomas Rosicky who powerfully side-footed the Gunners into the lead. 1-0.
In the second half Arshavin replaced Rosicky, presumably a pre-planned decision given the Czech’s recent lack of match time, and the Russian was sprightly enough getting his head to a Chamakh cross and firing a decent volley which was saved well by Carroll.
The Greeks though grew in confidence and after hitting the post with a header they equalised on the 64th minute with a scrappy effort from close range by Maniatis. A furious Szczesny complained that the corner from which the goal was scored shouldn’t have been given and got a booking.
Olympiakos nearly took the lead a couple of minutes later when Djebbour somehow headed wide from only two yards as Jenkinson, who’d been having a good game, got caught ball watching.
They did take the lead with 16 minutes left as Mitroglou, who scored at the Emirates earlier in the season, came off the bench to curl home past an unsighted Szczesny. The two goals seemed to knock the stuffing out of Arsenal and with limited options on the bench it wasn’t massively surprising that we struggled to muster anything of merit in the remaining 15 minutes.
The defeat rendered the result between Schalke and Montpellier meaningless confirming a second place finish in Group B for the Gunners. While that won’t necessarily guarantee us a stiffer test in the knockout stages it does mean we’ll have the disadvantage of being away in the second leg.