LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal (15) celebrates with Andre Santos and Andrey Arshavin as he scores their first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal and Olympiacos at the Emirates Stadium on September 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
1 - 0 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 9'
2 - 0 Andre Santos 20'
2 - 1 David Fuster 28'
Arsenal ran out winners at the Emirates today after two early strikes gave them enough room to get three points against a frisky and dangerous Olympiakos Piraeus side. After an opening twenty minutes where the hosts dominated, the men from the Greek port wrighted their ship (pun very much intended thankewverymuch) and gave Arsenal all kinds of problems down the Sagna flank. Arsenal managed to limit the damage, however, mainly due to excellent play from Per Mertesacker and Alex Song in the middle, along with industrious if a bit sloppy play from Emmanuel Frimpong.
Arsenal started well, although Olympiakos had their chances. Alex Song played the ball out of the back really well, and Chamberlain was released up the right-hand side. He managed to cut inside, and before the Greek defense could do anything, he lashed home a left-footed shot. It made him the club's youngest ever English goalscorer in the Champions League, which is awfully specific, but still, if one cares about those kinds of things...
After the goal, Olympiakos started to look much better. Chamberlain was playing well on the right, but behind him, the flank was opening up. A sign of things to come came from an Olympiakos corner where the defending got desperate, Mikel Arteta clearing a shot off the line in the end as the Greeks caused all kinds of chaos in the Arsenal area. Olympiakos began to put Arsenal wide men under all kinds of pressure along the touch lines, Gunners often having no options to pass to once they were closed down.
Proceedings were more or less even by the time Arsenal made it two. Andre Santos played infield to Tomas Rosicky, who laid it back to Santos, who played it to Arhsavin, who laid it through to a streaking Santos down the left. His cross found Marouane Chamakh, but the defender slid in last moment to poke the ball away. Fortunately it bobbled out to Santos again, who cut inside and slid home underneath Franco Costanzo. 2-0.
Eight minutes later, Olympiakos won a corner off of the embattled Bacary Sagna, and they made it count. They had a lot of joy playing short corners and swinging balls in from unconventional positions, and indeed, that is what they did after Chamberlain was left on his own to defend against two players. The ball swung in, and David Fuster ran up completely unmarked straight through the middle of Arsenal to powerfully head home. Problems on set pieces, still, and questions rightly will be asked. Pat Rice said it was a soft goal to concede in his presser; indeed, Mr. Rice. I can haz fix soon?
Olympiakos looked really dangerous on the counter, but Arsenal slowly regained their footing. Chances went begging, though, often due to overelaboration from Arhsavin and Rosicky. The second half continued the tradition, a horrible non-call on Chamberlain denying Arsenal a plum chance on the break. in the 64th minute, Olympiakos came the closest they would to equalizing as Vassilis Torosidis curled a peach of a shot off of the crossbar, Szczesny having no chance. Arsenal escaped, though.
Rice brought on Ramsey for the excellent Chamberlain, which seems odd unless Chamberlain was gassed. Ramsey was pretty poor during his time on the pitch, though, squandering a lot of breaks and generally looking a bit lost. Rosicky wasn't playing much better, and neither was Arhsavin. Robin van Persie came on for Chamakh, and Kieran Gibbs replaced Arshavin. Under a little bit of pressure towards the end, Arsenal did well to clear the danger and saw the match out in injury time.
It wasn't a vintage Arsenal performance; according to UEFA, 461 passes for the home side at 78% was the final verdict. Arsenal had the edge in possession, 54-46%, and Mikel Arteta completed 68 passes at 83%, the best passer in the match.
Next up: oh, just the North London Derby.