Montpellier 1 - 2 Arsenal: Arsenal off to a flyer in France
ARSENAL got their Champions League campaign off to a winning start after coming from behind to beat Montpellier in France last night.
Montpellier - Belhanda (9 pen)
Arsenal - Podolski (16), Gervinho (18)
Referee: CV Carballo (Spa)
Manager Arsene Wenger, serving the first of his three-game touchline Uefa ban, would have been fuming from the stands when captain Thomas Vermaelen gave away an early penalty, although replays suggested the foul was probably just outside the box. However, the Barclays Premier League club – coached by assistant manager Steve Bould from the sidelines for the first time – responded magnificently and were soon level through a fine finish by German Lukas Podolski.
Before the French side, making their Champions League debut following last season’s brilliant Ligue 1 campaign, could recover, Arsenal swept ahead on 18 minutes through Gervinho.
Although the hosts rallied after the break, with lively winger Remi Cabella hitting the crossbar and goalscorer Younes Belhanda missing a great chance late on when he fired straight at stand-in goalkeeper Vito Mannone, the Gunners closed out a battling victory.
Arsenal settled well, and soon had the hosts on the back foot. However, Montpellier remained dangerous on the counter-attack – and took a somewhat controversial lead on nine minutes.
Gunners captain Vermaelen slid in on Belhanda at the far right edge of the penalty area, and the Moroccan went down in a heap. However, the assistant on the goalline indicated the foul was inside the box – much to the disbelief of the visitors. Belhanda got up to take the spot-kick himself, netting Montpellier’s first Champions League goal with a nonchalant chip.
Arsenal were behind for less than ten minutes. Summer signings Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, playing against his old club, combined with some slick passing on the edge of the Montpellier area to slip Podolski clear – and the German tucked the ball under Geoffrey Jourdren.
Before the home side could regroup, Arsenal struck again on 18 minutes. This time the damage was done down the right, as the ball was recycled quickly through Gervinho and Giroud out to full-back Carl Jenkinson, who darted toward the line before cutting the ball back across the six-yard box – where Gervinho arrived on cue to bundle in it. To their credit, Rene Girard’s side refused to lie down and slowly built up some momentum again.
Cabella remained the dangerman for the hosts and, ten minutes into the second half, he clipped a delightful 20-yard chip against the crossbar.
Belhanda then spurned a golden opportunity to level with ten minutes left when, with some quick footwork, he sidestepped Per Mertesacker after a cross into the Arsenal box from the right but he fired straight at Mannone.
Montpellier: Jourdren, Bocaly, Yanga M’Biwa, Hilton, Bedimo, Estrada (Herrera 78), Saihi, Mounier (Ait-Fana 67), Belhanda, Cabella, Camara (Stambouli 78). Subs not used: Pionnier, Marveaux, Congre, Jeunechamp.
Arsenal: Mannone, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Diaby, Arteta, Gervinho, Cazorla (Coquelin 90), Podolski (Walcott 90), Giroud (Ramsey 76). Subs not used: Shea, Koscielny, Andre Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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