Eastmond (o.g.) 28, Eduardo 45
Arsenal’s dominance in Group G came to an abrupt end as Shakhtar capitalised on defensive mistakes from Emmanuel Eboue and Gael Clichy. Former Gunners forward Eduardo kept his promise to the home fans by scoring the winner- ending Arsenal’s one hundred percent record in the Champions League this season and lifting Girnyky level with Arsenal on nine points.
In the absence of Alex Song and Denilson, Craig Eastmond was chosen as the defensive midfielder in Arsenal’s 4-5-1 formation however the youngster contributed as much to building attacks as he did preventing Shakhtar forays forward. Educated in the Arsenal footballing way, Eastmond always made himself available for a pass from high deeper midfield position and was comfortable in possession. Having become an effective buffer for the back four- and Theo Walcott’s goal that gave Arsenal the lead – his withdrawal on the hour mark took away that protection and left the Gunners exposed to multiple Shakhtar counter attacks.
Nicklas Bendtner’s recent form from the bench was rewarded with a starting place but his inability to hold the ball and bring his midfield on to the front foot often saw Arsenal struggle with any degree of attacking fluency. As Bendtner struggled, it forced the Gunners to build attacks from deep, testing the resolve of their patient passing game.
After Theo Walcott had left Shakhtar defenders in his wake – and Andrei Pyatov gazing at the curling effort that nestled in the far corner of his goal – a rash challenge by Eboue on Willian was punished with a yellow card, only for the Gunners to be further disciplined as the free-kick was turned into his own net by Eastmond. As both sides traded efforts at goal, a cross-field pass was intended for Shakhtar skipper Darijo Srna. His initial chest control was poor, gifting Clichy possession and more importantly, a chance to clear his lines. Clichy dallied and Srna’s persistence was compensated with the ball just outside the Arsenal penalty area, allowing him to cut the ball into the path of Eduardo who let the ball roll onto his left foot before directing it past Lukasz Fabianski.
Johann Djourou was reinstated to the heart of the Arsenal defence and his presence was important in preventing a buoyant Shakhtar side inflicting further misery on Arsene Wenger’s team. After a timely intervention denied Luis Adriano a shot at goal in the first-half, he stood tall to block Douglas Costa, and then the impressive Willian, from firing at Fabianski’s goal.
Shakhtar’s formidable home record ensured that it was a difficult test for an Arsenal side missing key personnel through injury. Having failed to win, Arsenal passed up the chance to qualify for the second round at the earliest opportunity. The defensive mistakes – and leaving the in-form Marouane Chamakh on the bench for so long – portray that Arsenal still had enough to come away from Donbass Arena with at least a point and maintain an unbeaten record.
27 Eboue – 18 Squillaci – 20 Djourou – 22 Clichy
14 Walcott – 7 Rosicky – 19 Wilshere – 8 Nasri
59- 11 Vela on for 40 Eastmond
73- 29 Chamakh on for 52 Bendtner
82- Emmanuel-Thomas on for 14 Walcott