Olympiakos 2 (Maniatis 65, Mitroglou 73) – Arsenal 1 (Rosicky 38)
Man of the Match – Djamel Abdoun (Olympiakos)
In the end, it doesn’t even matter. Er, it really didn’t matter, as Arsenal ended their Champions League qualifying group with a 2-1 loss in Athens, to the Greek champions, who chased around the Gunners throughout like a pack of wolves.
Arsenal, as expected made several changes for the game, with Jernade Meade starting at left-back, er..Squillaci at center back, a midfield of Coquelin, Ramsey and the returning Rosicky. Upfront were the uninspiring duo of Gervinho and Marrouane Chamakh, the former an expert in killing off attacks, with his amazing dribbling and heading skills; who were partnered by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Olympiakos, top of the Greek league, and unbeaten in 11 games, started with Roy Carroll, the man in goal for the opposition, the last time Arsenal lifted silverware. Rafik Djebbour was preferred to that monster of a striker Kostas Mitroglou.
Arsenal made the brighter of the starts, and Gervinho displayed some intricate skills in blasting the ball high and handsome. The Ivorian then fed the Morrocan Chamakh, who gave enough time for the Greek defence to clear their lines.
Thomas Vermaelen, one of only two regular first teamers, prevented Djebbour from opening the scoring. Chamakh was creating, er, all sorts of problems for the Greek defence, but his run off a Coquelin long ball was called offside.
In the meanwhile, young Jernade Meade was looking tenacious and hungry, like his predecessors in the Arsenal left-back production line, which has produced Ashley Cole, Gael Clichy and Kieran Gibbs in the past.
Arsenal had a great chance to go ahead, when Chamakh cleverly headed the ball down, which fluffed off an Olympiakos defender, to the feet of Aaron Ramsey, in a great shooting position, but the Welshman fluffed his shot as well, with his left foot.
The Greek side looked more enterprising than their English counterparts, as they pressed like they had inherited the ghost of Barcelona. They created some chances of their own, and almost scored, but for a Rosicky cleared off the line, and Szczesny saved.
Djamel Abdoun was getting increasingly hard to handle for the Arsenal defence. Sebastien Squillaci, playing after nearly a year, honestly said, was pretty decent. He set up Torosidis, who fired over the bar.
Gervinho then had a great chance to set up Chamakh, who was running clear, but the Ivorian decided to take on a chasing pack of Olympiacos defenders, and eventually lost. The Gunners then had the lead, when Gervinho looked like he was spectacularly ending another attack, but he decided to pass this time to Tomas Rosicky, who scored a delicious goal into the far corner, from the edge of the box. It was the Czech international’s first start, and first goal of the season.
Andriy Arshavin, probably must have felt like Santa Claus, as he took his place on the bench, alongside James Shea, Martin Angha, Saad Hajrovic, Elton Monteiro, Chuba Akpom and Zak Ansah. “Who the hell are these bozos and what are they doing on the Arsenal bench? Where’s Santos and Djourou?” must have been the Russian’s sentiments in the first half.
He came on at the start of the second half, probably a caution to rest Rosicky. It took some time for both sides to get going, and Arshavin leapt like never before, from a Chamakh cross, and his header was saved by Carroll.
Olympiakos then hit the post, but were awarded a corner, as the referee adjudged Szczesny had tipped it to the post. Off the resulting corner, Maniatis made the most of Ramsey’s and Szczesny’s uncertainty to tip the ball home. And the Greeks took the lead instantly, but Djebbour’s header went wide.
He was replaced by the Andy Carroll of Greece, Kostas Mitroglou, who scored an un-Andy Carroll like goal, curling one in from long range to beat Szczesny. Arsenal kept the ball, but didn’t offer much going forwards, as the Greeks closed out on their 3rd successive defeat of Arsenal at home.
Like I said, in the end, it didn’t matter, as Arsenal were through. There were plenty of positives. Jernade Meade had a very good game, and considering that was his debut, it was a very very good one. Sebastien Squillaci was decent too, and the biggest positive is that this is probably the last time he will put on an Arsenal shirt.
Jenkinson was enterprising, but Abdoun had a blinder. Coquelin too was polished in midfield, while Ramsey continued his rusty form. Rosicky and Chamakh both worked hard, but Arshavin was anonymous in the second half. Chamberlain toiled, but looks like a shadow of himself last year. Gervinho was at his frustrating best yet again.
All in all, a good educational trip for some of the younger member’s of the squad, and some much needed game time, ahead of next week’s crucial Capitol One Cup quarter final tie at Bradford.
Jai Arsenal 🙂