Arsenal victory soured by injuries

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The Independent Online

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was left counting the cost of qualification for the Champions League knockout stages as full-back Kieran Gibbs suffered a fractured metatarsal in the 2-0 win over Standard Liege and centre-half William Gallas was left facing a race to be fit for Sunday's crunch showdown with Chelsea.

The Gunners responded to their lacklustre defeat to Sunderland with a comfortable victory which secured safe passage into the last 16 at the top of Group H ahead of the final match against Olympiacos after first-half goals from Samir Nasri and Denilson, a 30-yard strike.

However, that progress was overshadowed by the latest injury to Gibbs, who hobbled off in the final minutes following a hefty challenge from Eliaquim Mangala.

The England Under-21 full-back had only just returned to fitness from an injury to his right foot suffered while away on international duty, and Arsenal last night confirmed Gibbs had now suffered a fracture to the first metatarsal on his left foot.

The defender will have surgery today, which is set to rule him out for at least two months.

As Gibbs had been filling in for French international Gael Clichy, sidelined by a back problem, Arsenal must now head into the clash against Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea without an experienced left-back.

Armand Traore, who had a loan spell at Portsmouth, or more likely veteran Mikael Silvestre, himself with only a couple of appearances so far, will deputise, although the versatile Emmanuel Eboue could also drop into defence.

Gallas, meanwhile, went off at the break with a combination of an ankle problem and a lump above his eye following a clash of heads with Andrey Arshavin, which also left the Russian needing staples to close a bloody gash.

Wenger hopes Gallas will be fit to face his former club on Sunday, and at least the Arsenal manager can now give some fringe players the chance to impress with the pressure off in Olympiacos next month.

"There are two competitions in the Champions League - one is the championship and one is a cup," the Gunners boss said.

"We move now from the championship to the cup competition and that means it is different psychologically and we go now into a period when every minute is important. We want of course to adapt to that.

"We have normally the advantage to play the second leg at home, so let's get our injured players back and get in a strong position in the Premier League, that is important as well for the confidence of the team."

Liege, meanwhile, must now hope the young Gunners beat Olympiacos to stand any chance of claiming runners-up spot.

The Belgians were missing main striker Milan Jovanovic through injury, but could have taken the lead when Dieudonne Mbokani smashed his drive against the angle.

However, Standard finished with 10 men when Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez was sent off for pushing his forehead into the face of Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas.

Liege coach Laszlo Boloni was less than impressed by the 20-year-old.

"That has serious consequences for us," he said.

"I am gutted about his behaviour and angry about the lack of respect towards his team."

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