Arsenal FC made a steady start in their bid to improve on last season's UEFA Champions League final appearance with a 2-1 victory against ten-man Hamburger SV in Germany.
Back in the competition after a six-year absence, the home side got off to the worst possible opening in this Group G encounter when goalkeeper Sascha Kirschstein was dismissed on eleven minutes after he was adjudged to have brought down Robin van Persie. Gilberto stepped up to slot in from the spot and Tomáš Rosický doubled the lead ten minutes after the restart. Boubacar Sanogo got a late consolation, however, as Jens Lehmann conceded a UEFA Champions League goal for the first time in 853 minutes.
Coming into the match on the back of disappointing league performances, both teams began cautiously until the unlikely figure of Raphael Wicky showed some attacking intent. Twice inside the opening ten minutes the defensive midfielder advanced up the left wing but Hamburg's forward line of Sanogo and Daniel Ljuboja failed to make the most of promising positions.
They were soon made to pay as Thomas Doll's side were reduced to ten men when Van Persie ghosted behind the home defence and won a penalty under pressure from Kirschstein. The Hamburg keeper's first UEFA Champions League appearance duly ended as the referee produced a red card. Understudy Stefan Wächter was introduced but could do nothing to keep out Gilberto's fine spot-kick.
It was a sizable setback for the Bundesliga outfit and Arsenal began to take a grip on proceedings. Van Persie could have added a second within a minute after a fine through-ball from Rosický but Wächter smothered at his feet. It was not all one-way traffic, however. Just after the half-hour a splendid corner from Piotr Trochowski, playing in place of the injured Rafael van der Vaart, was met by the head of Vincent Kompany but his effort drifted wide. Lehmann was tested before the interval, doing well to parry Ljuboja's strike.
Doll shuffled his pack at half-time, adopting a three-man defence as Hamburg looked to commit more men forward. Arsenal's young side were untroubled, though, and enhanced their advantage ten minutes after the restart. Back on German turf following his summer move from BV Borussia Dortmund, Rosický was a threat all evening and notched his first goal for the Premiership team with a brilliant long-range shot that arrowed into the top-left corner.
It was the Czech Republic captain's first UEFA Champions League strike since his effort against Arsenal in October 2002 and marked the start of a period of dominance by the visitors. Rosický, Gilberto, Cesc Fabregas and Aleksandr Hleb were finding their rhythm and took control of midfield but Sanogo ensured a lively finish, making it 2-1 moments after having another attempt ruled out for offside. Arsenal now face FC Porto at home on 26 September when Hamburg travel to PFC CSKA Moskva.