Late Strike From Ramsey Give Arsenal Top Spot
Olympique Marseille 0 – 1 Arsenal
0 – 1 Ramsey (90)
You’ve no idea how hard it was to avoid a headline of “Euro Stars head home happy from the south of France“. But no incentive was offered so no product placement occurred…
Arsenal moved to the top of their Champions League group with a comfortable victory in the south of France. Their fifth victory in six games means a repeat outcome in the return match will leave them all but assured of qualification for the next round. It seems a far cry from August when we were told that they would not even get out of the group phase.
That was, of course, the view of a media that has taken one word from Arsène’s post-match interview out of context and branded last night’s win, ‘lucky‘. A habitual crime by the habitually lazy. Wenger reflected on the lateness of Ramsey’s winner,
We lost two points in Dortmund in the last seconds of the game. We lost a Champions League Final in the last part of the game with 10 men. We are not always lucky but when you face good opposition you need to take your chances..
The truth is Arsenal were rarely troubled. Marseille’s own problems were evident in their lack of attacking ambition beyond the opening twenty minutes. When they did break through, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker were outstanding in the centre of the defence, repelling the sporadic French attacks comfortably.
At the other end, Arsenal found Mandanda determined to preserve Marseille’s impressive home record against English teams. He gave Szczesny an object lesson in goalkeeping; every cross that came into the area to the penalty spot was claimed, caught or punched. Such communication is essential for a defence to retain confidence in their custodian; Marseille showed the understanding that was there.
And when Arsenal did break through, the Zaire-born goalkeeper stood tall, using every inch of his body to deny the visitors. When he failed, Diawara was on hand, quite literally, popping up with a header immediately afterwards that prevented van Persie’s looping effort crossing the line.
Not that it was all Arsenal. Inside the first twenty minutes, Alex Song was fortunate not see red when he sloppily lost possession and chopped Remy down before the French international could pounce. It was just about the only blemish on an otherwise solid performance. As the last man, Song was relieved for the referee’s leniency.
Likewise, Carl Jenkinson. Another night, another official and it would have been a harsh penalty conceded as the ball struck his arm. The youngster did well, I thought, overall. He was diligent in his defensive work, quick to get a foot onto Remy’s shot that deflected it wide with Mertesacker having been brushed aside a little too easily.
At the other end, in the first half at least, Marseille were content to allow Arsenal possession in front of the penalty area but massed their ranks to keep the visitors at bay. It was frustrating not least because of the inconsistency of Arshavin and Walcott in the first half, struggling to impose themselves on players that they dominated in the second.
That half was in marked contrast to the first. Aside from a scramble in the area that Jenkinson hacked away, Marseille created little. Koscielny had Remy, Ayew and later Gignac, in his pocket. On the evidence of this showing Thomas Vermaelen’s return to the first team is not as clear cut a choice as we might believe. The injury to Jenkinson may change that; if serious, Koscielny is the obvious candidate to switch to right back.
At the other end, Theo Walcott scrambled clear but could not make a telling effort count with defensive pressure forcing a hurried shot that Mandanda saved with his feet.
Arshavin wriggled free on many occasions, to be baulked by sheer weight of defensive numbers or inconsistent delivery of the final ball. He was probably not substituted first because Walcott had a similar night, the England international made way for Gervinho. It was a brief stay of execution for the Russian though as ten minutes later, Aaron Ramsey entered the fray in his place.
It proved to be a masterstroke. With the clock running down and the hosts looking to keep Arsenal at bay, the defence was dragged toward the right side of the pitch. Djourou’s cross was missed by all – Gervinho had a damn good go at controlling it though – and Ramsey was left unmarked. He drilled his shot unerringly into the net, following a celebration that echoed Thierry Henry’s at Highbury having mesmirised the Spurs defence all those years ago.
A win, five out of six and onto to a tougher encounter on Sunday with Stoke as visitors. Arsène’s birthday may be marked by a rough and tumle affair.
Posted on October 20, 2011, in Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Champions League, Football, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 218 Comments.