The UEFA Champions League Group of death took a stringent turn on match day 5 as Arsenal beat Marseille 2-0 at the Emirates while Borussia Dortmund were 3-1 better than Napoli.
The virus that sidelined some key players in the season caught Keiran Gibbs napping and Wenger brought in Nacho Monreal to start in Gibbs’ place. Cazorla and Arteta had to make do with the substitute bench as Rosicky and Flamini started after missing the Boruc drama.
Before the fans could settle for the match, Jack Wilshere raced on to a Sagna pass, got into the Marseille box before curling the ball to the top left hand corner of the net. It took just 29 seconds and the emirates was in awesome rupture. The fastest goal by an Englishman in the UCL. Gilberto’s 20seconds goal against PSV still stands as Arsenal fastest goal.
Ramsey missed an opportunity to put the gunners 2-0 immediately after the Wilshere goal. Wilshere squared a ball for the Welsh Maestro but the goalie was on hand to snuff the goal. Ozil couldn’t control a lofted Ramsey pass to the dismay of the fans especially looking at the 42m tag.
Ozil would further invoke the spirit of England as his penalty was coolly prevented by Mandanda. Ramsey had been impeded in the box and with our Ballon D’Penalty roosting on the bench, Ozil regarded as the no 2 PK taker, stepped up and failed to send the gunners to a 2-0 lead.
The missed penalty and the heavily touch sprang Ozil to life and in the second half, the French were continuously pegged back and overran. With 61% possession for the gunners, a goal was sure to come. Ozil made amends for his miss by linking up Wilshere to score his first brace for Arsenal.
OM responded with two attacking substitutions in the forms of Mathieu Valbuena and the red-hot Florian Thauvin, but Szczesny and the Arsenal defense snuffed off all their threat. Walcott almost made it 3 but the scoreline remained 2-0 with his shot wide from the post.
With 12 points, the gunners are yet to be through to the knockout stage. According to Dale Johnson of the ESPN:
It’s exceptionally close and the group is still on track for an amazing three-way 12-point tie at the top. Arsenal and Dortmund are very strong favourites to go through though. Arsenal only need to avoid defeat to Napoli by three or more goals to guarantee their place, while Napoli will go through if they better Dortmund’s result. However, if both Napoli and Dortmund win then we have three teams on 12 points and a mini-league is created just involving the results of those teams. In that scenario Dortmund are guaranteed to qualify, as their mini-league goal difference is +1 and cannot change; Arsenal have +2 and Napoli -3. Because of this Napoli can only qualify from the mini-league if they beat Arsenal by three goals, which would dump the Gunners into the Europa League.
After the game, Wenger had this to say about Wilshere:
Jack is starting to think ‘what Ramsey can do, I can do as well’. He’s calm in front of goal and especially the first goal shows that
my Wenger quote of the evening was on Ozil’s penalty miss:
That’s good news for England, maybe! I agree that everybody can miss a penalty. I think his run-up to the ball was a bit short, but it’s the way he takes them.
So we wait till the fortnight when we travel to Naples and Dortmund visit Marseille.
In other games, Barcelona lost 2-1 to Ajax in Amsterdam. They relied on a dubious penalty to even score. The absence of Messi is being felt. Basel did a double over Chelsea. The Blues could not even muster a shot at goal. Only Arsenal can muster no shot at goal and still score (3-1 loss to Barcelona). The blues were poor as Mohammed Salah ran them ragged. But Chelsea are through with 9 points.
Celtic fell 3-0 at home, Zenit and Athletico Madrid shared the spoils in Russia, Porto came from a goal down to earn a point against Austria vienna in Portugal with Schalke 04 and Steau Bucharest playing goalless in Chelsea’s favour.
The UCL continues tonight with games involving the Manchester clubs, Madrid and Bayern Munich. United had a frightful landing last night. the 1958 Munich crash comes to mind.
For Arsenal, Cardiff is next.