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Champions League Match Review: Arsenal 3 – 1 Olympiakos

Published: October 4, 2012 | 7:49 am
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Arsenal maintained their 100% home record against Olympiakos in the Champions League by winning 3-1 at the Emirates last night. This was the third meeting between these two sides in the last 4 years in the group stages. In fact, it has been somewhat of a Greek tragedy for Olympiakos, with them having lost on 10 previous, now 11, visits against all opposition on English soil.

In the pre-match press conference, Arsene Wenger had commented that the team were disappointed with the weekend’s loss to Chelsea. And the hangover seemed to persist, when in the opening minutes of the game lack of communication between Vito Mannone and his captain resulted in an chance for the Greek side but they failed to capitalize. Arsenal’s first scoring opportunity came in the 12th minute when Kieran Gibbs was unfairly held up just outside the Olympiakos penalty area. Santi Cazorla’s direct attempt from the free kick brought about a good save from keeper Balazs Megyeri, who tipped it over the bar. The pouring rain was beginning to have an effect on the game as Arsenal were being erratic in their passing and both Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply. Arsenal were still dominating possession(69-31) though, with Cazorla displaying some fancy footwork to retain the ball despite the close attention of as many as four Olympiakos players, drawing appreciation from the home crowd.

As the rain relented, Olympiakos slowly grew into the game. Koscielny was yellow carded in the 30th minute for a wild tackle, with the commentators hinting that on another day he might have received a red. The resulting move seemed to be going out of play for a goal kick but Paulo Machado did well to keep the ball in play and cut it back for Kostas Mitroglou to take a quick left footed shot which was well held by Mannone.

Olympiakos were encouraged by this and in the 35th minute had a great chance to go ahead when captain Giannis Maniatis’s cross found Machado barely 6 yards from goal, but the Portuguese international could not keep his shot down. At this stage, Olympiakos had 4 attempts on goal, 2 on target compared to just 1 for Arsenal. Vermaelen was not having the best of games, and a foul by the Arsenal captain on Machado provided another opportunity for the Greek side. However the free kick ended up being struck straight at Mannone.

And then came the breakthrough for Arsenal in the 42nd minute, against the run of play. Cazorla and Podolski linked up on the left, and the German’s pull back was into a good area with Arteta and Gervinho bearing down on the Greek defence. The Ivorian reacted first to the loose ball after Arteta’s tackle, and coolly finished to the right of the diving Megyeri. This was Gervinho’s fifth goal of the season and the second of this Champions League.

However Arsenal were still being careless at the back, and Vermaelen’s erratic pass gave Machado another shot on goal, but he failed to make the most of it. It was a clear warning for Arsenal though, which they failed to heed. Almost on the stroke of halftime, Mitroglou outjumped the Arsenal defence to head home a well directed Leandro Greco cross from the left. It was nothing less than the Greek side deserved, and it was all even at the break.

Arsenal FC v Olympiacos FC - UEFA Champions League
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 03: Lukas Podolski of Arsenal
celebrates after scoring his team

The second half started with Arsenal showing a lot more intent. In the 50th minute, more good work down the left from Gervinho got him to the Olympiakos penalty area and he passed the ball to the feet of Cazorla, but the Spaniard’s quick left-footed strike was off the mark. They did not have to wait long for the go-ahead goal though and in the 56th minute Arsenal restored their advantage. Again there was good link up play between Gervinho and Cazorla, resulting in the Ivorian getting a run down the left and his cut back, on the second attempt, found Lukas Podolski whose powerful low strike hit the net through the keeper’s legs. Arsenal were now looking to put the game out of sight and in the 63rd minute, there was a great chance for Laurent Koscielny from a Cazorla free kick, but his header was well over the bar in the end.

The Greek side made a couple of substitutions with Drissa Diakite and Greco making way for Ariel Ibagaza and Djamel Abdoun respectively as they looked to get something out of this game. Arsenal made a change of their own by bringing Theo Walcott on for Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 71st minute and later substituted both their goalscorers in the 80th minute when Gervinho and Podolski were replaced by Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey.

The induction of fresh legs into both teams opened up the game, and in the 84th minute Giroud did well to deflect a cross from Walcott goalwards, but Megyeri was well positioned to stop the shot. Another brilliant move came about in the 89th minute when Ramsey’s perfectly weighted back heel pass was taken in his stride by Cazorla, who then pulled it back to find Giroud, but the Frenchman’s goal-bound shot found Dimitris Siovas in the way. From the resulting corner, Ramsey attempted an ambitious left-footed strike but it was well wide. As the Greek side went looking for an equalizer, they were being exposed at the back and paid the price. Late in injury time, Giroud’s header from Mannone’s goal kick found Ramsey in acres of room. The Welshman displayed great composure as he coolly chipped the Olympiakos keeper to register Arsenal’s third and confirm maximum points for the London side from their opening two games.

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