Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal match report: Gunners are outplayed in Germany as Ciro Immobile and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang score

Borussia Dortmund 2 Arsenal 0

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The Independent Football

In the previous four years, Arsenal have had to wait until the last-16 of the Champions League to discover themselves out of their depth and ultimately outplayed by an opponent who is just too bloody good for them. It will have been a shock tonight to experience that uncomfortable feeling in mid-September.

This Borussia Dortmund team will beat many good sides at the Westfalenstadion this season, but then Arsenal are not Freiburg or Paderborn, they are a club with pretensions to make in-roads into the latter stages of a competition they have never won. It is early days yet, but Arsene Wenger will assess the response of his player to the challenge the German side presented tonight and worry that it was simply not good enough.

Sat in the press-box, the injured Mathieu Flamini turned late in the second half to watch on the corporate box televisions a replay of Wojciech Szczesny being caught in possession by Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng, and shook his head in dismay. Yes, Arsenal struggled with injuries before this game; but then Dortmund were without seven of their senior squad and they won comfortably.

The goals came three minutes apart, either side of half-time, the first a brilliant effort from the Italian striker Ciro Immobile who out-ran and flummoxed Arsenal’s defence all on his own. Then Aubamayeng exchanged passes with Kevin Grosskreutz and took advantage of another ill-advised sprint out the area from Szczesny to add the second.

 

There are five more group games to go and this one was away from home. Yet even so, Arsenal had played two more competitive games this season than their German opposition before tonight and still it was Dortmund who looked the sharper and the better-prepared. Wenger will have to hope that they can overturn this defeat in late-November when the Germans come to London.

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Pierre Emmerick Aubameyang scores his goal against Arsenal

 

There are many more twists to the story, but he does not want to contend with another second-place group finish and a potential second round draw against one of the big guns. 

Last season, Arsenal seized a victory here with a hard-fought performance built on astute defence and taking their chances when presented. They managed neither this time. Last season’s matchwinner Aaron Ramsey struggled to influence the game at all, while Mesut Ozil was missing - presumed uninterested - out on the right wing. When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla came on for those two in the second half, Wenger’s side looked much better for it.

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Pierre Emmerick Aubameyang celebrates his goal against Arsenal

 

The going was tough in the early stages for Arsenal and even those players missing with injury - Jurgen Klopp’s team had enough pace and directness that by the half hour point of the game Wenger’s players were hanging on somewhat.

The German side targeted Arsenal’s right flank where the 19-year-old Spanish full-back Hector Bellerin was making his first start for the club. It was a rough ride for the teenager at times, with Kevin Grosskreutz galloping at him in his black boots like the express train to Dusseldorf. On the ball, Bellerin looked comfortable; it was without it and his positioning then that meant he struggled.

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Arsene Wenger pictured during the 2-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund

 

Klopp has many good players but it is Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Armenian once coveted by Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, who pulls the strings as the team’s gifted playmaker. He was booked for a dive in the penalty area when he stepped inside Mikel Arteta’s challenge in the fifth minute, and justifiably so. Mkhitaryan’s ability is such that you wondered why he needed to do it.

It was a question after a while of when, not if, the first Dortmund goal would come. They scored with their last attack of the first half and they had plenty of them before that. Szczesny saved well from Aubameyang with his feet in the 27 minute after Sven Bender had worked the ball out left to Grosskreutz. Jack Wilshere did very well to get in front of Mkhitaryan when Szczesny pushed out Immobile’s cross into the Dortmund No 10’s path. Arsenal could not get moving in midfield. As for Ozil, played out on the right wing, it was easy at times in the first half to forget that the German World Cup winner was participating in this game. The best of his team’s chances were developed elsewhere. There was a great run down the left by Kieran Gibbs on 31 minutes and a good cross that Danny Welbeck could not wrest from the air.

At the other end, Dortmund tried every way through. Sebastian Kehl broke from deep and slipped the ball right to Aubameyang who shot wide. Bender had a shot saved. And then Arsenal got the breakthrough that presented them with a chance. Welbeck was tackled running onto a throughball, but the ball broke loose to Ramsey who poked it back through to the new £16m striker.

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Welbeck’s clever break to the right had created the space for the pass, and Ramsey’s ball gave him just Roman Weidenfeller to beat. Unfortunately for him, the striker’s instinct in Welbeck can fail him in these situations and he pulled his shot wide.

The Dortmund goal came three minutes later, and what a beauty it was. Immobile by name, mobile by nature. The Italian striker was gifted possession by Arsenal and started his run in his own half, changing his direction a couple of times but always at a pace that had the Wenger’s defence fatally dropping ever deeper. When finally he reached the edge of the box he sensed his chance, accelerated past Laurent Koscielny and picked his spot past Szczesny.    

The second goal was a grievous blow to Wenger, coming so soon after half-time. Aubameyang exchanged passes with Grosskreutz, went round Szczesny and kept his balance well to score. It was unclear just what Szczesny had in mind when he came rushing from his goal.

Dortmund switched to 4-4-2 in the second half and had many more chances. Aubameyang hit the bar. A late challenge from Oxlade-Chamberlain stopped Mkhitaryan as he ran unchecked into the Arsenal area on 85 minutes. Arteta looked out of sorts too, and he was replaced with Lukas Podolski late on.

Just before Aubameyang hit the bar on a great counter-attack, Welbeck had again failed to get on the end of a good cross from Gibbs from the left. The striker had sights of goal but then that is often all there is when a side’s back is up against the wall. The Arsenal man just failed to take them, and there could be no complaints about the emphatic nature of this victory for Dortmund.
 

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