Marseille 0-1 Arsenal - Ramsey steals points at the death
Stade Velodrome, Marseille
One-nil to the Arsenal rang out the chants from the travelling Gunners after Aaron Ramsey grabbed a last-gasp winner, but boring, boring Arsenal might have been more appropriate.
This match was not a great advert for Europe’s premier football competition. Let’s face it; you know you’re in trouble when one of the key topics of conversation is the kits the teams are wearing. (For the record; Marseille were sporting a garish orange number while Arsenal were wearing a bizarre dark-and-light-blue diagonal quartered shirt).
But enough of the fashion, what of the action? Well, that was distinctly threadbare in a match which seemed destined, certainly from half-time onwards, to end as a goalless draw.
The majority of the chances came in a first 45 minutes which saw both sides playing a relatively positive game, however neither had the cutting edge to turn build-up play into chances. After the break it seemed the two half-time team talks had been hewn from the same block: a draw will do nicely, thank you very much.
For the Gunners that made sense. Wenger had said before the game that he wanted four points from his side’s two games against Marseille. A point in France would have set them nicely on that path with the return leg in two weeks’ time.
Didier Deschamps’ side had won their first two Champions League games but are struggling in Ligue 1 with just one win in 10 this season, so there was logic in their desire to settle for a point also. Yet in failing to take any sort of second-half initiative in front of the partisan home support they only have themselves to blame for getting knocked out by a last-minute sucker punch.
That said, Marseille will feel aggrieved that they weren’t awarded a penalty inside the first 15 minutes. André Ayew (and what seemed like the whole of the Vélodrome) made a very strong appeal when Carl Jenkinson, who was under no real pressure, unnecessarily handled inside the box. The Marseille player was so vociferous in his protestations that he ended up in the referee’s note book.
Robin van Persie then had a header cleared off the line by Alou Diarra following a Mikel Arteta corner and it was the closest either side would come to a goal until Ramsey broke the deadlock in second-half injury time.
However, replays showed that Souleymane Diawara had also handled the ball and so the teams went in to the break at one a piece in denied penalty shouts.
There were hopes that they would improve in the second-half and a scrappy game would produce some goals. Instead Wenger and Deschamps seemed to have practiced reverse alchemy and the second 45 minutes were even more turgid.
Yet, the Gunners come away with a golden chance to reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League for the 12th year running. They now top Group F with seven points and conventional wisdom has it that 10 are enough to qualify. Crisis? What crisis?
Marseille (4-3-3): Mandanda; Azpilicueta, Diawara, N'Koulou, Morel; Diarra, Gonzalez (Amalfitano 73), Cheyrou (Kabore 87); Valbuena, Rémy (Gignac 69), Ayew.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Jenkinson (Djourou 62), Mertesacker, Koscielny, André Santos; Song, Arteta; Walcott (Gervinho 67), Rosicky, Arshavin (Ramsey 78); van Persie.
Did you know…Arsene Wenger was manager of Monaco when they finished runners up to Marseille in Le Championnat in both 1991 and 1992
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