A disjointed display by both teams, littered with error-strewn individual performances culminated in several missed opportunities to make the most of lapses in defence. There was very little between the teams over the course of the 90 minutes but Arsenal’s stats show that they were marginally better with their passing and ball retention as their late flourish in the game proved pivotal to the win.
However, Wales international Aaron Ramsey was on hand to slam home the winner at the death to punish the undisciplined rearguard of the French club in a vital 1-0 win for the north London side.
The first chance of the Champions League game fell to Arsenal captain, Robin van Persie. The Dutch striker saw his goal-bound header cleared off the line by Souleymane Diawara amid a hectic moment for the hosts. The 1993 champions were forced to shoot from range during the early stages but Loic Remy was eventually able to carve open the home side’s first decent opportunity of the night. After getting by Per Mertesacker, the French forward had a real sight of the Gunners’ goal but Carl Jenkinson was able to deflect the effort wide of the target.
As Marseille slightly upped the ante, Mathieu Valbuena created another opportunity for Didier Deschamps outfit. His cross was met by Lucho Gonzalez but the midfielder could only prod his shot narrowly wide of the goal as the first half petered out into a forgettable affair.
After the break, Arsenal looked the more determined side to claim all three points. Despite coming out and beginning to boss possession, their sluggishness and lack of cutting edge in the final third continued to be their downfall. Andrei Arshavin looked particularly disinterested as his attempted flicks and crosses woefully failed to come off.
Theo Walcott also proved himself to be a frustrating figure for Arsene Wenger as his final ball continuously let him down. The English attacker wasted the best chance of the match so far as Steve Mandanda in the hosts’ goal denied the ex-Southampton winger. As the 22-year-old was bearing down on goal after capitalising on Nicholas Kloulou’s mistake, he struck his tame effort straight down the middle and the French shot-stopper kicked the ball away to safety.
Goal threat from Marseille was virtually non-existent in the second period with Andre Ayew, Valbuena and Remy all failing to unlock the suspect defence of the visitors. Even the introduction of Andre-Pierre Gignac failed to have any impact on the game as Arsene Wenger’s side began to get on top of proceedings after the ineffective Arshavin was substituted for Ramsey.
And in the 92nd minute, Wenger was rewarded for this tactical masterstroke as his Welsh midfielder stole the three points with Marseille left ruing their unadventurous approach. Johan Djourou, another substitute for the Gunners, sent over a deep cross into the home side’s box and after missing almost everyone in there, Ramsey was lurking behind them all to control the ball and blast his shot accurately into the bottom left corner of Mandanda’s goal.
Arsene Wenger lauded his team’s willingness to keep fighting until the end and the Frenchman believes this result will be vital to any success they might experience this season.
”We have made a little step forward but we have to be humble because we are a team that is continuing to grow. The next game at home to Marseille will be very important. It could be decisive but we have to keep our attitude and our spirit.”
The victory now sees Arsenal soar above the French outfit into top spot in the group on seven points. Marseille remain in second place on six points despite the loss. The return leg on 1st November is proving to be a very important game in order to decide who will top the group and with the stakes set higher, you can expect to see a more open and attack-minded encounter at the Emirates.
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