Arsenal moved to the top of their Champions League group after a tricky 3-1 win over Olympiacos at the Emirates tonight.
Arsenal were without the ill Per Mertesacker, meaning Koscielny continued in defence alongside Thomas Vermaelen, Francis Coquelin came into midfield in place of Abou Diaby, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played on the right hand side.
The away team set up defensively, to frustrate Arsenal, and it certainly worked, not helped by a succession of sloppy passes from Arsenal. Oxlade-Chamberlain had a difficult first half, not much came off for him, while the discipline of the visitors meant we found it almost impossible to create chances.
The best moment of the first half from our point of view was a free kick from wide, just on the edge of the Olympiacos box. Santi Cazorla went for it from a tight angle and forced the keeper into a good save.
The game was pretty dull but sprang to life in the last 10 minutes of the half. Firstly, Olympiacos should have been ahead when Koscielny and Vermaelen both missed a header and a cross fell to Machado inside the 6 yard box. Somehow he scooped it over the bar.
A rash Vermaelen challenge, becoming something of a trademark now, gave the Greeks a free kick in a dangerous position but the save was easy for Mannone in the end.
With just a couple of minutes of the half remaining Arsenal were ahead. A good move down the left saw Podolski pull it back, Arteta came onto it and when it broke to Gervinho the Ivorian took a touch and shot low into the far corner from the edge of the box.
That should have been enough to go in ahead but once again Arsenal were sloppy. Vermaelen’s lazy pass gave them a shooting chance from distance, and then when Oxlade-Chamberlain lost it again down the wing, Olympiacos fashioned a move for the equaliser.
A cross from our right from Mitroglou inside the area, he timed his run and jump perfectly, getting away from both centre-halves and headed into the far corner to make it 1-1. Not quite a goal they deserved to score but probably one we deserved to concede.
The second half was much better from Arsenal though and we came out much brighter. Santi Cazorla should have scored after being set up by the energetic Gervinho but skewed his shot wide from inside the box.
Gervinho then turned provider for Lukas Podolski as Arsenal went in front. He got to the end line, pulled it back for the German who turned and shot from close range, the ball going in underneath the Olympiacos keeper to make it 2-1 Arsenal.
We should have been further ahead when Laurent Koscielny headed a Mikel Arteta free kick over the bar from 6 yards but it was clear that the Gunners were making the best chances while Olympiacos were restricted to speculative efforts from distance which, if they didn’t go high or wide, hardly troubled Mannone.
Theo Walcott came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain and the England international almost set up a rampaging Thomas Vermaelen after a good ball from Cazorla only for the keeper to claim.
Giroud and Ramsey then replaced Gervinho and Podolski and the Frenchman was really unlucky not to score. Firstly, he flicked a Walcott cross towards goal only for Megyeri to make a great save, and then when set up by Cazorla his goalbound shot hit a defender in the face and deflected out for a corner.
He had a hand in the goal that sealed the game for us though, flicking on a Mannone goal kick into the path of the Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman ran on and scooped a delicious finish over the keeper to make it 3-1.
Definitely deserved on the second half performance but we’ll need to avoid the sloppiness against West Ham on Saturday. All in all, a good three points and a good reaction to that poor spell in the first half.