Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud
Subs: Fabianksi, Vermaelen, Monreal, Gnabry, Jenkinson, Hayden, Bendtner
Aaron Ramsey’s second half half header was enough for Arsenal to down Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion as the Gunners wrestled control of their Champions League fate against the odds. Arsene Wenger’s side were under the cosh for much of the game but stole a goal with their first attack of the game before producing a mature performance to see the game out much to the frustration of the vociferous home support.
Arsenal were unchanged from the side that beat Liverpool at the weekend, Gibbs recovering from his calf problem and the likes of Walcott, Flamini and Wilshere still sidelined.
As expected the midfield was packed very tightly from the off, each side probing only to retreat again – the sides resembled a couple of fencers warming up.
For the most part Arsenal gave as good as they got although it was the home side who had the first serious chance. A free-kick looped to the back post was accidentally headed across goal by Ramsey before defender Neven Subotic hooked a scruffy effort just past the post.
Rosicky, Cazorla and Ozil did their best to wriggle themselves free of the attention of their Dortmund counterparts but often only had the isolated Giroud to aim for. You wondered how the Germans might have countered the pace of Theo Walcott.
Arteta went into the book on 22 minutes for a blatant shirt tug and obviously had the yellow on his mind when he allowed Reus to race towards the box unchallenged seven minutes; luckily Mertesacker put him right with a challenge befitting the biggest of fucking Germans.
When the Spaniard was unfairly penalised for a challenge on Henrikh Mkhitaryan just moments later, he threatened to pull his hair out in frustration…although we know of course, that’s not actually humanly possible.
Mkhitaryan continued to cause mischief as half-time drew closer but squandered a great chance to break the deadlock putting his effort from the edge of the box wide of Szczesny’s left-hand post.
At the break Arsenal hadn’t had a shot on target but it didn’t really feel like either side were that fussed about scoring.
Dortmund came out all guns blazing in the second half and helped by the pernickety Dutch ref forged a host of early chances.
Bender crossed for Reus who forced a decent diving save from Szczesny, Mkhitaryan fired over from long range before Reus had an effort ruled out correctly for offside as he netted on the rebound after a Błaszczykowski low drive was parried by our Pole in goal. The Germans even had a second effort ruled out for offside as the hour mark ticked past as the pressure continued to build.
Amazingly, out of the blue, we scored with our first chance. Rosicky gave the ball away in midfield, luckily got it back, quickly fed the ball wide to Ozil who in turn curled a cross onto the head of Giroud inside the box. The Frenchman’s knockdown was met by the on-charging Ramsey (who else?) who nudged the ball past a stranded Weidenfeller with his head.
Within three minutes Ramsey came ever so close to doubling the lead latching onto a Giroud cross and arrowing a shot goalwards on the bounce. Only a slight deflection off Weidenfeller saw the ball go wide. Giroud nearly scored from the resulting corner, his slid effort cleared off the line before Mertesacker twice came close with his head.
Attack continued to prove the best form of defence as we forced the home side onto the back foot with some fine passing in the final third. It seemed to rattle Jurgen Klopp’s men and indeed the crowd as the travelling Gooners found a brief moment to drown out their vocal peers in the terraces.
With 15 minutes left both sides made changes, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jonas Hoffmann coming on for Bender and Błaszczykowski and Nacho Monreal replacing Cazorla.
Weidenfeller completely misjudged an Ozil free-kick and went straight through Laurent Koscielny. The Frenchman lay in agony holding his ribs and needed a couple of minutes treatment as we began looking to the clock. There were ten minutes left when he returned to proceedings.
Ozil, Giroud and Ramsey all defended valiantly from the front, chasing down lost causes and pressuring the Dortmund defenders into poor passes while Rosicky encapsulated the team’s efforts with a fantastic rabble-rousing sliding challenge on Lewandowski in the centre of the park. It was body on the line stuff and it was delicious. The Czech was replaced in injury-time by Thomas Vermaelen while Nicklas Bendtner also got minutes for the fatigued Giroud.
Four minutes of injury-time were as tense as any in recent memory but the boys held strong for a fantastic three points. We return to joint top of Group F with Napoli knowing a win against Marseille will more or less see us secure safe passage to the knockout stages.