Arsenal fail to fire and now face tough road to Rome

FC Porto 2 Arsenal 0

Below-par Arsenal slumped to defeat last night to leave themselves with a tougher path towards Champions League glory.

With his side already qualified for the last 16 and with several key men – like captain Cesc Fabregas and striker Robin van Persie – carrying injuries, manager Arsène Wenger felt confident enough to take a calculated gamble with his team selection against a well-organised Portuguese outfit, who had never lost here to an English side a European tie.

However, the move backfired as the much-changed Gunners never really got going and were undone by goals either side of the break by Bruno Alves and Lisandro Lopez.

Arsenal will now be drawn against one of the group winners next Friday – which include Juventus, Bayern Munich and Barcelona – and so must play the second leg away from home. While the road to the Champions League in Rome is certainly not blocked for the Gunners, it has now become somewhat more treacherous.

Afterwards Wenger insisted he did not regret fielding a young side and backed his team to handle a group winner in the next round.

He said: "It will be difficult but we will be up for it and have a chance against anyone in Europe. We were quite comfortable in the first half until the goal tonight. What was disappointing was that when we tried to come back we were not capable of being dangerous, we lost balls and then we were on the verge of conceding more."

The first real chance opened up for the visitors after 25 minutes when Nicklas Bendtner, this week in bright green boots, fed Aaron Ramsey on the right edge of the Porto box. The young Welshman turned his marker and fired in a low, angled shot which Helton did well to push around the far post.

It was no surprise when the home side took the lead six minutes before the break. A corner from the left was floated into the Arsenal box, and Alves arrived in front of Abou Diaby at the far post to head past Manuel Almunia.

Arsenal stepped up a gear as they tried to get back on level terms before half-time. However, their delivery into the danger area was poor as the Porto defence stood firm.

The visitors were soon further behind in the 54th minute. Arsenal gave possession away in midfield, with Francisco Fernando picking up the ball and feeding it through to Lisandro at the edge of the box. The striker made no mistake, smashing his shot into the top right corner.

Arsenal again looked to make an immediate response, with Ramsey's neat turn and shot testing Helton.

It would have been all over for the Gunners had Cristian Rodriguez not pulled his shot wide when played in on the overlap down the left. As it was, there remained hope of a comeback and slowly Arsenal mounted some pressure.

However, Rodriguez almost got clear of Emanuel Eboué as they raced towards the Arsenal goal but the defender did enough to pressurise the striker to shoot off target. Then Lucho dragged his close-range shot wide as the Gunners were again exposed at the back.

Arsenal were awarded a free-kick just outside the box, Bendtner's shot beat the wall but the Porto keeper collected it comfortably – which just about summed up a lacklustre display from the Gunners.

Almunia summed it up, saying: "We were not in the game at any moment. We didn't pass the ball well, we had no shots on target at any time. We didn't feel good on the pitch and just weren't in the game. When we lose we have to think about what we did badly and what we have to do to improve."

FC Porto: Helton, Fucile, Rolando, Bruno Alves, Pedro Emanuel, Lucho Gonzalez (Costa, 77) Fernando, Raul Meireles, Lopez, Hulk (Guarin, 88), Rodriguez (Mariano Gonzalez, 78). Substitutes not used: Nuno, Stepanov, Lino, Sektioui.

Arsenal: Almunia, Eboue, Gallas, Silvestre, Djourou, Ramsey (Wilshere, 59), Diaby (Gibbs, 59), Song Billong (Randall, 78), Denilson, Vela, Bendtner. Substitutes not used: Fabianski, Hoyte, Merida, Simpson.

Referee: K Vassaras (Greece)

Group G

Results: Dynamo Kiev 1 Arsenal 1; Porto 3 Fenerbahce 1; Arsenal 4 Porto 0; Fenerbahce 0 Dynamo Kiev 0; Fenerbahce 2 Arsenal 5; Porto 0 Dynamo Kiev 1; Arsenal 0 Fenerbahce 0; Dynamo Kiev 1 Porto 2; Arsenal 1 Dynamo Kiev 0; Fenerbahce 1 Porto 2; Dynamo Kiev 1 Fenerbahce 0; Porto 2 Arsenal 0.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions