Greek tragedy for Wenger as Olympiakos shoot down young Gunners
Published 07/12/2011 | 05:00
"What I will do is make sure we are completely solid defensively."
That had been the pre-match promise from Arsene Wenger as he tried to reassure Borussia Dortmund and Marseille that they had nothing to fear from him selecting a virtual reserve team against Olympiakos in their final champions League Group F clash.
The reality, though, was an Arsenal team who looked as if they were auditioning for a part in a sporting bloopers video.
Olympiakos's two first-half goals were of the comical variety, with Lukasz Fabianski, Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou combining to gift wrap the first and then Vito Mannone botching an attempted clearance for the second.
It prompted smiles as well as ecstatic cheers from fans of Olympiakos, yet their 3-1 victory was ultimately still not enough to secure their place in the knockout phase of the Champions League. That was taken by Marseille, who would not have seen the funny side of Arsenal's defending if they hadn't scored two late goals to beat Dortmund.
On 16 minutes, Squillaci and Djourou failed to clear David Fuster's attempted through ball and instead played Rafik Djebbour clear to easily round Fabianski and convert from an acute angle.
Djebbour then collided with Fabianski as both players missed a cross and the 'keeper was stretchered off with a suspected knee injury. Mannone came on and was soon picking the ball out of his own goal in embarrassing circumstances.
After bravely rushing out of the area to clear with his head Mannone then fluffed a bizzare attempt at a volleyed clearance from Fuster's tame shot -- when he could have caught the ball -- which ended with the ball dribbling into an empty net.
It can be safely assumed that Wenger had a fairly direct message for his players at half-time, but they began the second half with further defensive uncertainty.
A corner saw Modesto force a save from Mannone after Santos had misjudged his jump. Santos was subsequently forced off through injury, Ignasi Miquel coming on as his replacement, leaving Wenger desperately short of cover at full-back. The substitute made a quick impact however, as his curling cross was chested down by Chamakh and Yossi Benayoun followed in with a powerful volley past Balazs Megyeri.
The goal certainly lifted Arsenal but their defensive deficiencies remained and Olympiakos added a third when Modesto followed up after Olof Mellberg's header hit the post. (© Daily Telegraph, London)