Gunners take time to find their range
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Arsenal FC 2-0 Olympiacos FC
Arsène Wenger's team left it late again as two goals in the last 12 minutes finally ended Antonis Nikopolidis's resolve in north London.
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Arsenal FC left it late again as two goals in the last 12 minutes from Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin finally ended the resolve of Olympiacos FC, and goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis in particular.
The home side dominated throughout in north London but for the second UEFA Champions League outing in succession they left it late. A fortnight ago Eduardo struck an 81st-minute winner to down R. Standard de Liège and it was almost as late when Van Persie at last broke through. Andrei Arshavin put the result beyond doubt four minutes from time when he flicked a clever back-heel past the embattled Nikopolidis to leave Arsenal three points clear in Group H.
The Gunners made a vigilant start but slowly began probing the Greek defence and carved out their first chance after 14 minutes following Cesc Fàbregas' long cross-field pass to Gaël Clichy. The French defender surged in from the left flank and his cut-back was met by a low first-time shot from Arshavin which Nikopolidis got down well to save. It was a sign of things to come, the home team's early patience making way for increasing impatience.
Fàbregas hit the crossbar with a shot on the bounce and Tomáš Rosický's angled follow-up was parried by the Greek goalkeeper, who needed another a smart save to deny Arshavin at the near post a few minutes later. Still the hosts came and Fàbregas should have done better than direct his effort into the waiting arms of Nikopolidis when found in space.
If the momentum was all one way, there was a warning for the home side late in the half when Vassilis Torosidis was given a free header, albeit from 15 metres out, which caused Vito Mannone little problem. Another warning followed soon after the break when former Aston Villa FC defender Olof Mellberg, scorer of the first ever goal at this stadium, sent in a close-range header which Arsenal's defence bundled away.
Van Persie chance
Whether or not they sensed a threat, the home fans started to find their voice and were nearly on their feet when Van Persie was teed up on the edge of the area but the Dutch striker slammed his left-footed effort straight at the magnetic Nikopolidis. Thomas Vermaelen fared no better with a far-post header from a Van Persie free-kick on the hour as Olympiacos continued to soak up the pressure.
Arsène Wenger had seen enough, Rosický making way for Eduardo as he sought to inject fresh bite into Arsenal's attack. The well-drilled Olympiacos defence, working in numbers, ensured the status quo so with 13 minutes Wenger added yet another forward into the mix in the shape of Carlos Vela. A minute later Van Persie broke the deadlock, steering in from close range after Eduardo had cut the ball back following a defence-splitting pass by Fàbregas. The Arsenal captain then set up Arshavin to set the seal on another late win.