Arsenal may have ridden their luck at times, but Arsene Wenger will not mind after seeing his injury-hit side get their Champions League campaign off to a winning start in Marseille – their 10th successive win on the road.
Scorers: Marseille - J Ayew (90 pen); Arsenal - Walcott (65), Ramsay (83)
Referee: O Benquerenca (POR)
Only on Tuesday did Wenger claim the trio of Marseille, Rafael Benitez’s Napoli and last year’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund made Group F the hardest of this year’s competition.
The Frenchman also conceded that unless their injury situation improved – currently eight first-team squad members are out – then they would struggle to make it out of the group for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
Wenger will therefore have been all the more relieved to see his side pick up yet another win on the road last night on the French south coast.
Second-half strikes from Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey proved the difference at the half-finished Stade Velodrome, where the hosts dominated for large periods of the match.
Wenger made just one change for the match, with centre-back Per Mertesacker brought in to play alongside Laurent Koscielny.
The pair lined up together last time Arsenal visited Marseille in October 2011, keeping the hosts at bay as Ramsey came off the bench to snatch a 1-0 win.
Marseille, back in the competition after a year’s absence, edged the first half, with Andre Ayew and Andre-Pierre Gignac coming closest.
Rod Fanni was inches away from grabbing the opener moments into the second half, before Kieran Gibbs saved Per Mertesacker’s blushes by clearing his miskick off the line as Gignac waited to nod into an empty net.
It was a moment that proved decisive as another defensive mistake at the other end put Arsenal in the driving seat.
Jeremy Morel misread a Gibbs cross, allowing Walcott time to rifle into the roof of the net and quieten those who had criticised his finishing in Saturday’s 3-1 win at Sunderland.
Dimitri Payet and Mathieu Valbuena kept threatening as Marseille pushed for an equaliser, but Arsenal were still proving a threat.
The hosts continued to press hard for a leveller, but Ramsey’s low strike seven minutes from time put the game out of reach for the hosts, who pulled one back through Jordan Ayew’s stoppage-time penalty.
Marseille: Mandanda, Fanni, Diawara, Mendes, Morel, Romao, Imbula (Thauvin 80), Payet (J Ayew 73), Valbuena (Khelifa 90), A Ayew, Gignac. Subs: Samba, Cheyrou, Lemina, Mendy.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Flamini (Miyaichi 90), Ramsey, Walcott (Monreal 78), Wilshere, Ozil, Giroud. Subs: Fabianski, Akpom, Hayden, Jenkinson, Vermaelen.