Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Gibbs, Coquelin, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain Alexis, Ozil, Walcott
Subs: Cech, Mertesacker, Debuchy, Ramsey, Monreal, Chambers, Campbell
Arsenal defended and kept goal like twats to ensure their Champions League campaign picked up where it left off, going down 3-2 to Olympiacos at the Emirates this evening.
Arsene Wenger made changes to the team that beat Leicester with David Ospina replacing Petr Cech (reportedly carrying a calf injury), Kieran Gibbs coming in for Nacho Monreal, Francis Coquelin back in the holding midfield role and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain given a run on the right ahead of Aaron Ramsey.
Arsenal started brightly with the visitors sitting deep as you would expect, but looked most dangerous on the break. Oxlade-Chamberlain should have scored in the 12th minute having been set free but under pressure from the defender he shot into the side-netting.
Another break saw Theo Walcott with a sight of goal but his effort was tame, straight at the keeper. The Greek side had some moments of pressure, but didn’t threaten, one shot dribbled wide, although a free kick that was allowed to bounce might have caused some problems but Ospina showed safe hands.
After that the game settled down into a kind of stalemate, huff and puff from both sides, but neither keeper had very much to do until the 32nd minute when the visitors took the lead. Having won a corner after a mix-up between Gabriel and Koscielny, the ball was played to the edge of the box, Pardo took a first time shot which deflected off Oxlade-Chamberlain and into the bottom corner. 0-1.
The lead lasted less than 90 seconds though as Theo Walcott grabbed an equaliser and his 4th goal of the season. Alexis worked the ball down the left, fed it into Walcott who made a run in behind, he opened up his body and took a shot which ended up in the back of the net – although Roberto in the Olympiacos goal will feel he should have done better. 1-1.
Whatever he felt though, David Ospina will have felt even worse after he gifted the Greek side a goal to go ahead. From a corner he got his positioning wrong, he caught the ball, dropped it over the line and the official behind the goal flagged to award the goal to Olympiacos. A goalkeeping howler. 1-2.
There were yellow cards for Gabriel and Alexis before the first 45 minutes were up, and Arsenal went into the break knowing they’d been at fault for two very avoidable goals.
At the break Olympiacos made a sub, taking off some bloke and putting on some other bloke in his place, and Arsenal faced a wall of blue shirts as they sat very deep. Hector Bellerin was the most dynamic man in red, trying his best to make space down the right, but not much came off.
There was a further blow when Koscielny was replaced by Mertesacker in the 57th minute with what appeared to be a hamstring strain – an injury that will surely rule him out of Sunday’s game with Manchester United.
THere was another change almost straight away as Ramsey replaced Coquelin and the Welshman made an immediate impact. He split their defence wide open, Alexis crossed, the keeper got a hand to it, pushed it out then saved a Mertesacker rebound. That rebound fell to Cazorla whose shot was blocked off the line.
The Spaniard then saw a rasping shot from distance parried away by Roberto, before Alexis curled one wide and their keeper was booked for time-wasting. There was genuine pressure from the Gunners and in the 66th minute they drew level as Alexis headed home a Walcott cross. 2-2.
If that was supposed to put them on top, the lead lasted less than a minute, as the Greeks pushed forward from kick off, saw a shot blocked, then a forward allowed a simple tap-in from close range to make it 2-3. Bananas stuff.
Roberto made a fantastic save from an Ozil free kick, Oxlade-Chamberlain miskicking the rebound as Arsenal looked for an equaliser. Another fantastic Ramsey pass played Bellerin into the box, and as the ball came back to him he lashed a shot over the bar. An Ox shot deflected out for a corner, a Gibbs cross was headed just wide by a combination of Alexis and a defender, Ramsey had a shot blocked, the keeper scooped a Cazorla free kick out from under the bar but Olympiacos defended strongly.
Walcott curled a shot wide in the 4 minutes of injury time, but in the end Olympiacos held out for the win, Arsenal are left with no points from the opening two games, and they only have themselves to blame.
Next up United in the Premier League and Bayern in Europe.