Arsenal’s 150th game in the Champions League saw the Gunners claim a hard earned point in Germany as Borussia Dortmund scored late to snatch a 1-1 draw.
Robin van Persie had given the Emirates outfit a half-time lead, but despite an impressive defensive performance, Ivan Perisic’s terrific volley ensured that honours were shared evenly.
Chaperoned to his seat in the stands by two UEFA officials, Arsene Wenger sent out an attack-minded side at the Westfalenstadion as the Gunners looked to build on their morale-boosting win over Swansea. In midfield Yossi Benayoun was handed his full debut alongside Alex Song and Mikel Arteta, while Gervinho and Theo Walcott joined Robin van Persie up front. The same defence as used on Saturday was charged with keeping another clean sheet.
In a scrappy, but open first ten minutes both sides had chances to open the scoring, Gervinho denied at point blank range by an interception by Mats Hummels and Shinji Kagawa hitting a volley over the bar after racing clean through the Arsenal defence.
In the centre of the park Mario Goetze pulled the strings for Die Schwarzgelben and in the eleventh minute set up Polish international Robert Lewandowski only for his shot to be blocked on the line by Sagna. Arsenal looked nervous, struggling to play the ball out of defence and vulnerable to quick counter-attacks.
When Arsene Wenger’s men did put a move together they rarely threatened the box. Both Walcott and Gervinho often guilty of starting dribbles only to run straight into opposition defenders before making a pass. Up front on his own Robin van Persie cut an isolated figure, struggling to get into the match despite the best efforts of Benayoun and Arteta.
Goetze and Kagawa continued to provide the threat for the home side, the little German with delightfully quick feet which saw him trouble Alex Song time after time. Nevertheless, despite promising much on paper, as the match reached the half hour mark it was a stale affair.
After 32 minutes though Robin van Persie had Arsenal’s best chance of the match, a Yossi Benayoun through ball setting him free on the corner of the Dortmund box. Despite appearing to have time, the Dutchman opted to shoot early only for his tame effort to force an easy save from Weidenfeller.
He didn’t make the same mistake twice. Four minute before half-time Van Persie gave the Gunners a lead out of nothing.
A poor pass from Sebastian Kehl was diverted by the Dutchman into the path of Walcott. As the captain raced forward, the England winger fed a beautiful through ball back to Van Persie and he finished with clinical aplomb from the edge of the box with his right foot. It was a fantastic goal and gave the Gunners the lead at the break.
The disjointed feel to the game continued as the second-half got going although Kagawa’s energy, both on and off the ball, continued to shine like a beacon. The Japanese attacking midfielder proving every bit the dangerous and mobile threat that Wenger had predicted.
On the hour Gervinho should have doubled his side’s lead. Through on goal, the Ivorian slipped at the vital moment, seemingly recovered, but couldn’t get any power on his shot as Weidenfeller closed him down. Arsenal appeared to be growing in confidence with every attack.
Unfortunately, for all the improved confidence going forward, at the back the Gunners looked increasingly jittery. While Szczesny looked composed, both Mertesacker and Koscielny were forced into frantic blocks and hurried clearances. Time after time, the ball was cleared only to find a yellow shirt and the threat of another attack. With 75 minutes on the clock Pat Rice opted to sure up the midfield with Emmanuel Frimpong replacing Theo Walcott and Yossi Benayoun shifting to the left to accommodate the tenacious Ghanaian and help cover Kieran Gibbs.
Dortmund could and should have equalised with ten minutes to go when Neven Subotic met a corner inside the six yard box only to squirm his shot straight at Szczesny. The pressure continued to build, Goetze shooting just wide soon after.
In the dying minutes both Robin van Persie and Gervinho were withdrawn, Marouane Chamakh and debutant Andre Santos coming on. Unfortunately, despite looking good for a win, the Gunners conceded.
After a free-kick was cleared by a Kieran Gibbs’ header, substitute Perisic crashed home an unstoppable volley from the edge of the area. It was a tremendous goal and one which the Germans will claim they deserved. It could have got worse; only Szczesny’s bravery denying his compatriot Lewandowski as the game entered injury-time. Moments later, the referee signalled full-time.
A point gained away from home in arguably the trickiest fixture of the group stage is no bad return considering the club’s start to the season. That being said, having got so close to a winning start in the Champions League, Arsenal fans will no doubt end the evening feeling frustrated.