Arsenal snatched a superb victory at Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night to significantly strengthen their chances of winning Champions League Group F.
Arsène Wenger’s men had it all to do after the German side had grabbed that last-gasp win at Emirates Stadium a fortnight ago.
But this evening they responded with a performance of guts, grit and patience.
Arsenal had to soak up significant pressure in the first half as Dortmund pressed for an opening.
But Aaron Ramsey’s goal changed all that.
On 62 minutes, the Welshman nodded home from close-range after Olivier Giroud had headed on a Mesut Ozil cross.
Dortmund were rattled by the goal. In the minutes that followed both Ramsey and Giroud could have added to their advantage.
The hosts responded but even when Dortmund were dominant Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker had protected Wojciech Szczesny superbly.
They kept going until the end; as did the rest of the team.
Napoli’s win over Marseille means they join Arsenal on nine points.
Wenger’s men host the French side on Matchday Five.
Victory may be enough to put Arsenal through.
SETTING THE SCENE
The BVB Stadion is one of the great sights (and sounds) of European football. And the ‘Yellow Wall’ delivered once again as the team walked out for this crucial fixture.
But the noise coming from the 3,300-strong traveling contingent suggested the Arsenal fans were confident too. And why not?
Wenger kept faith with the side that had sent Arsenal five points clear the top of the Premier League last Saturday with that controlled and calculated win over Liverpool.
The manager knew similar qualities would be needed tonight against a side that had won their last seven home games in this competition.
Despite Dortmund’s late victory, these two teams had been evenly-match at Emirates Stadium last month. And they cancelled each other out in the opening 15 minutes this evening.
The first true chance arrived soon after that when Sven Bender headed down a left-wing free-kick and Neven Subotic hooked a shot just past the far post.
Shortly afterwards, excellent work from Marco Reus on the right eventually saw Marcel Schmelzer fire wide.
Up to this point, Arsenal were lively enough on the break but had never got a proper sight of goal.
Dortmund were pressing but not exactly dominant. Though it took a well-timed challenge from the excellent Mertesacker to dispossess the rampaging Reus on the edge of the area at the half-hour.
Then eight minutes from the break a quick raid down the right ended with Henrikh Mkhitaryan steering a shot just wide of the far post when, given the space he was afforded, the Armenian should have forced a save out of Szczesny.
As the half went on, Arsenal breakaways had petered out and an incessant, insistent Dortmund pinned them back.
When the whistle, the visitors had been solid enough but they would have to impose themselves much more in order to get something from this game.
After the interval, the story seemed to be the same - Dortmund probing, Arsenal defending.
In the opening five minutes, Reus headed wide and then he had the ball in the net after Jakub Blaszczykowski’s shot had been saved by Szczesny. Fortunately for Arsenal he was flagged offside.
Dortmund were starting to look ominous and Arsenal could not sustain an attacking threat.
The first time they did, they scored.
It all started with tenacity and vision from Rosicky in the centre. He spread the ball wide to Ozil on the right. His cross was nodded on by Giroud and Ramsey dived to head home from close range.
Suddenly Arsenal had chances. Good chances.
Giroud found Ramsey on the right of the area and his blast was unconvincingly kicked behind by keeper Roman Weidenfeller. Santi Cazorla took the corner and Giroud’s sliding shot was booted off the line.
On 70 minutes, Cazorla’s free-kick was nodded on by Mertesacker. It flew over Weidenfeller and went on top of the net.
Ramsey’s goal had changed everything. Dortmund had been in control, now they looked ragged.
The hosts would muster some pressure but the closest they came in the dying minutes was when Robert Lewandowski nodded over from close range.
This was billed Arsenal’s big week of three big games.
The one when they had to answer serious questions about their ability to contend with the cream.
Two down, one to go.
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (NED)
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