Podolski rescues Gunners from Euro slump


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Not every European night can be a vintage occasion, and not every win is a classic but when you have a goalscorer like Lukas Podolski with the happy knack of being in the right place at the right time, there remains an escape route.

In recent years it would surely have been Robin Van Persie who would have popped up with the decisive goal for Arsenal to salvage a home win in the Champions League. Last night it was Podolski and while Arsenal are still a long way from finding a first-choice centre-forward, let alone a man who can fill Van Persie's boots, this was still a satisfactory outcome for Arsène Wenger.

On a night when Premier League reputations were taking a battering elsewhere, Arsenal proved themselves capable of grinding out a victory against the Greek champions. For that they owed much to the marvellous Santi Cazorla and the hard-working Gervinho, but also to the opportunism of Podolski to score the goal that made the difference.

In injury-time, the substitute Aaron Ramsey broke away to score a third for Arsenal to seal the victory for his side with virtually the last kick of the game, although by then Olympiakos were tiring badly.

It was Gervinho who led the line stoically for much of the match, to be replaced with 11 minutes remaining by Olivier Giroud, the summer signing, who, in an ideal world, would inherit Van Persie's role in the team. He is clearly not at that level yet and while there are goals from the likes of Podolski that loss will not be felt too keenly in the Champions League – but at some point the man who came from Montpellier will have to step up.

Elsewhere, Arsenal were just not, well, doing the business. Cazorla is a pleasure to watch but even he found it hard to have a significant effect. Out on the left wing, Podolski struggled to get in the game until he played a part in Arsenal's goal. If anything that came as something of a surprise given Arsenal's flatness in attack. Podolski and Cazorla exchanged passes and the former hit a cross that fell to Mikel Arteta who lost the ball in a challenge. It fell kindly for Gervinho who hit his shot beyond the reach of Balazs Megyeri in the Olympiakos goal.

Arsenal were stung just minutes later. A cross from Leandro Greco on the left wing was met superbly by the centre-forward Kostas Mitroglou who flicked a header beyond Vito Mannone. The less said about the attempts of Vermaelen to get to the ball before him, the better.

Arsenal came back out after the break a much better side. Gervinho and Cazorla were at the heart of the best that their side created, including the second goal scored by Podolski.

Ramsey took the third goal well, running clear on a flick on from Giroud break to chip the ball over Megyeri. There will be more difficult nights than this one by which time, Arsenal will need to have found an established centre-forward.