AJ Auxerre hung on for an impressive 2-1 victory in their UEFA Champions League Group A meeting with Arsenal FC at Highbury.
Came out fighting
Having been two goals down at half-time, Arsenal came out fighting after the break. They pulled a goal back through Nwankwo Kanu, but it was to prove insufficient. The damage of a poor first 45 minutes had already been done.
The first half certainly went all Auxerre's way. With the wet pitch making Arsenal's rapid passing game a difficult proposition, the visitors looked to strike on the break. They were nearly rewarded as early as the fifth minute.
After Mwurawari had been denied by David Seaman when put through, the ball looped to Yann Lachuer. With the goal gaping, Lachuer struck his volley too early, however, and it went over.
But Guy Roux’s side did not have to wait long for the lead, going ahead through a spectacular strike from Kapo on eight minutes. From what looked an innocuous position on the right flank, he cut inside and brushed past Patrick Vieira, before curling a powerfully struck left-footed shot past Seaman.
The home side looked visibly shaken by conceding their first UEFA Champions League goal of the season, and immediately attempted to reply. Kanu was showing some impressive touches, and he went close with two half-chances.
Thierry Henry was strangely subdued, however, and Arsenal struggled for rhythm. Just as they looked set to force their way back into proceedings, Auxerre struck again.
Element of fortune
If there was an element of good fortune in the way Jean-Alain Boumsong's surging run from the back resulted in the ball bouncing to Fadiga, the Senegal midfield player's finish was all about talent as he gently flicked the ball past the advancing Seaman.
A frustrated Arsenal did their best to pull something back before half-time, but Boumsong and Philippe Mexes proved an insurmountable wall for Wenger's charges.
That wall was penetrated on 53 minutes. Henry made a surging run down the right flank, and, with the Auxerre defence back-pedalling, he picked out Kanu who tapped the ball into the net from three metres.
Poured forward in waves
It was exactly the response Wenger wanted from his players and they poured forward in waves. This left spaces at the back, and Auxerre should have put the game beyond Arsenal on the hour mark.
In an excellent position, Mwurawari initially hesitated in the box, and after a one-two with Tainio, was denied at the second attempt by a magnificent Seaman save.
Wenger threw on what he hoped would prove his trump card, in the fit-again Robert Pires. The French international was superb for the final 20 minutes, but even his inspired promptings could not unlock Auxerre for a vital equaliser.