Arsenal secured an impressive 2-1 victory over Olympique Marseille at the Stade Velodrome to kick their UEFA Champions League group off in winning style.
The Gunners rode their luck during the game with Wojciech Szczesny making a few good saves and Kieran Gibbs clearing off the goal-line in the second half.
However, goals from Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey sealed a great win and made a new club record with ten away victories on the bounce in all competitions for the North London side, despite Jordan Ayew’s injury time penalty.
Arsene Wenger’s came into the game expecting a tough test with the French fans making a loud atmosphere inside the stadium under construction, but it was the away side who made their first opportunity after six minutes. Ramsey’s good pass over the top released the pace of Walcott, but the former Southampton man saw his weak volley saved by Steve Mandanda from ten yards out.
It was the French team who had the best two chances of the first half, but failed to hit the target with headers from good positions. Dimitri Payet’s free-kick was flicked inches wide by Andre Ayew, while Andre-Pierre Gignac flashed a header over at the near post from a good Payet corner. Both were close shaves for Arsenal and they were close to being behind at half-time.
The Marseille chances continued into the second half when Alaixys Romao did well to hook the ball back for Rod Fanni to fire at goal, but the defender’s shot flew inches wide. While up the other end, Gibbs forced Mandanda into a good save when he burst on to Mesut Ozil’s pass and lashed a shot at the near post.
Payet was proving to be a handful for the Arsenal defence, but he couldn’t beat Szczesny with a powerful half-volley as the Polish goalkeeper tipped the shot around the post. One of the away side’s playmakers also saw a volley well saved as Jack Wilshere was denied at the back post by Marseille’s experienced shot-stopper.
It wasn’t just Marseille players laying siege to Arsenal’s goal as the Gunners’ players themselves nearly caused the French side to take the lead. Payet’s in-swinging cross should have been easily dealt with by Per Mertesacker but the big German had a mix-up with his goalkeeper and Gibbs was forced to track back and clear off the line. It was a lucky break for Arsenal and they made the most of it by taking the lead midway through the second half.
Jeremy Morel failed to clear a deep cross from Gibbs and Walcott was the Arsenal man lurking. From ten yards out, the winger rattled into the top corner with a powerful volley and the wild celebrations showed just how much Arsenal needed that goal in this game. It was a big moment for the Gunners, but it got better with six minutes to go.
Ramsey is an early contender for Player of the Season with his terrific form at the start of the campaign and the Welshman came up with another important goal for his team. The midfielder spun away from two men and drove into the box before slamming the ball past Mandanda from 15 yards. It was a well-taken goal and an impressive victory was in sight for Wenger.
That’s not to say they didn’t receive a scare in the final minute as Marseille won a penalty. Andre Ayew raced on to Ramsey’s poor touch and went down under the Arsenal man’s clumsy tackle which allowed Andre’s brother Jordan Ayew to slam home from 12 yards. It was a goal Marseille deserved but it wasn’t enough to change the result as Arsenal started their group in winning fashion.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)