Chamakh wins soft penalty on hard night for the Gunners

Partizan Belgrade 1 Arsenal 3

For a while last night it seemed the gloom that descended when a set of floodlights failed prior to kick-off in Belgrade would also envelop Arsène Wenger. Despite their clear superiority Arsenal made hard work of securing a second successive Champions League victory.

Having led after 15 minutes through Andrei Arshavin's fifth goal of the season the Gunners missed a series of chances to wrap this Group H tie up. They then conceded a needless equaliser when Denilson handled in the box. That reinvigorated the crowd in this intimidating Balkan cauldron and for a while it seemed the banner hanging from behind one goal – "You have been flattened by a steamroller" – might prove prophetic.

That was the first of three penalties. The second went to Arsenal, controversially as Marouane Chamakh appeared to dive when challenged by Marko Jovanovic. Though Arshavin struck it woefully Arsenal still benefited as their subsequent goals, by Chamakh and Sébastien Squillaci, were headers that the dismissed centre-half might have prevented.

Even then the drama was not over as Lukasz Fabianski, standing in for Manuel Almunia and in dire need of a good performance, saved the third penalty of the night to confirm Arsenal's victory.

It was a confidence-boosting save for the much-maligned 'keeper and he screamed into the night air with relief. His improved mood was further lifted by a point-blank late save from Ivica Iliev which spared Arsenal a nervous last few minutes. At the end his team-mates went to him as one to celebrate his good night.

Fabianski's evening of redemption could have significant consequences. With Almunia struggling to be fit by Sunday the Pole will probably have to face Didier Drogba and company at Stamford Bridge.

Fabianski will thus have more reason than most to be grateful that Wenger was so keen to start the match despite electrical problems which had put it in doubt. The floodlights suffered a partial failure four times in the hour before kick-off. If that plunged the pitch and stands into gloom it was even worse in the dressing rooms where Arsenal players had to use the light from the screens on their mobile phones to see.

This was the first Champions League tie in Serbia for seven years and Partizan thought they were ready. The club had upgraded the stadium, provided a black-and-white flag on every seat together with an appeal to their notorious followers to behave. They also flooded the ground and its environs with security.

The intimidating atmosphere evoked memories of Istanbul, Athens and Rome but Wenger clearly felt his players would cope for he named another youthful team including Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, and a rare Champions League appearance for Johan Djourou.

The focus, though, was on Fabianski and he made the good start he probably needed when he had to dive bravely at the feet of Pierre Boya after Squillaci left a back-header short after 11 minutes. That capped a bad start by Squillaci. After surviving a penalty appeal when pulling Boya over he conceded possession with a poor header that led to a break by Cleo. The Brazilian-Serb picked out Nemanja Tomic but he was superbly tackled by Denilson. Cleo, who resembles Gabriel Batistuta with his powerful build and flowing locks, then muscled Djourou off a long ball before shooting over.

Arsenal produced the perfect riposte. Alex Song fed Arshavin who released Wilshere. The youngster, playing in the Cesc Fabregas role behind Chamakh, drew defenders then slipped the ball back to Arshavin who scored.

The goal prompted mutual missile-throwing over the fence that kept the Partizan hard core apart from the Arsenal fans. On the pitch it deflated the home team and for the next 15 minutes Arsenal cut them apart at will. Arshavin and Rosicky should have made the game safe, but Vladimir Stojkovic, once unmemorably of Wigan, denied both. When Arshavin finally beat him the ball was cleared off the line.

The misses proved costly. Just after the half-hour Denilson blocked a cross with his upper arm and Cleo sent Fabianski the wrong way from the spot.

The next penalty came just before the hour. Song and Arshavin combined to send Chamakh away and he tumbled under Jovanovic's challenge. Wolfgang Stark dismissed the Serb and awarded a penalty. However, replays suggested Chamakh fell under the most minimal of contact, which called into question the point of having an extra official behind the goal if he is of so little assistance. With Fabregas injured and Samir Nasri, who converted two penalties at White Hart Lane last week, on the bench, Arshavin took the kick. It was a terrible effort and Stojkovic saved easily. It was the second penalty Arsenal had missed since Fabregas was injured, Tomas Rosicky having blazed over at Sunderland.

Nevertheless the Serbs were a man light and it showed when Chamakh rose to meet a cross from Rosicky. His header struck the bar but Chamakh reacted first to head in the rebound.

Victory seemed assured when, with eight minutes to go, Squillaci headed in Denilson's corner. However, two minutes later Gibbs brought down Ivan Stevanovic in the area. Up stepped Cleo, but this time Fabianski dived full length to make a fine save.

With Shakhtar Donetsk winning 3-0 against Braga in Portugal, Arsenal and the Ukrainian club are both six points clear at the top of the group. They meet in London on 19 October. Victory then would all but ensure Arsenal a place in the knock-out stages.

Partizan Belgrade 4-4-2: Stojkovic; Stevanovic, Jovanovic, Krstajic, Lazevski; Tomic (Savic, 59), Medo, Petrovic (Smiljanic, 69), Ilic; Boya (Iliev, 83), Cleo. Substitutes not used Zivkovic (gk), Stankovic, Bogunovic, Kizito.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Sagna, Djourou, Squillaci, Gibbs; Denilson, Song; Rosicky, Wilshere (Nasri, 74), Chamakh (Vela, 74); Arshavin (Clichy, 84). Substitutes not used Szczesny (gk), Koscielny, Eboué, Lansbury.

Man of the match Arshavin.

Referee W Stark (Germany).

Attendance 25,000.

Match rating 8/10.

Group H

Results so far: Arsenal 6 Braga 0, Shakhtar Donetsk 1 Partizan 0; Braga 0 Shakhtar Donetsk 3, Partizan 1 Arsenal 3.

Arsenal's remaining fixtures 19 Oct S Donetsk (h); 3 Nov S Donetsk (a); 23 Nov Braga (a); 8 Dec FK Partizan (h).

Braga 0-3 Shakhtar Donetsk

Donetsk warmed up for their double-header with Arsenal with a comfortable victory in Portugal. After a slow start, the game came alive when Luiz Adriano ran onto a clever pass from Douglas Costa in the 56th minute, sliding his shot under Felipe to give Shakhtar the lead. He added a second 15 minutes later, beating Felipe at the near post after more good work from Costa. He turned goalscorer in injury time, scoring from the spot after his compatriot, William, was brought down by home striker Paulo Cesar.

Nick Gillison

Man-for-man marking

Arsenal

Lukasz Fabianski

Under-fire Pole had little opportunity to impress early on. No chance with first penalty but got down well to keep out second spot-kick. 7



Bacary Sagna

Enjoyed his regular chances to advance into the Belgrade half before the break but was forced back more after the interval. 6



Johan Djourou

Surprise inclusion ahead of Laurent Koscielny and often looked rusty in his first Champions League appearance since last May. 6



Sebastien Squillaci

Appeared to be suffering hangover from West Brom display early on. Mix-up almost let Partizan in before he secured win near the end. 7



Kieran Gibbs

England international got forward down the right wing from the start and was also confident when called upon defensively. 7



Tomas Rosicky

Shot straight at Stojkovic after being set up by Arshavin, and was wasteful again after the break. Fine cross to set up Chamakh's goal. 6



Denilson

Endured a mixed evening. Made fine saving tackle to prevent Belgrade going ahead before being harshly penalised for handball. 6



Alexandre Song

Quietly combative showing from the heart of the midfield. Broke up sporadic Belgrade attacks and kept midfield engine room motoring. 6



Andrei Arshavin

Appeared to have got out of bed on the right side. Drove forward from the start and deserved his opener. Missed chance for a second from the spot. 8



Jack Wilshere

Increased burgeoning reputation with composed showing in the absence of Fabregas. Marvellous backheel to set up Arshavin's opener. 7



Marouane Chamakh

Often isolated up front but created space for others. Disappointingly eager to go down for penalty but quick to react for Arsenal's second. 7

Substitutes

C Vela (for Chamakh, 74) Creative Mexican was brought on in an attempt to secure the points but was unable to make an impact. 5

S Nasri (for Wilshere, 74) Surprisingly benched after recent fine form. Little time to impress but still managed to set up Squillaci. 6

G Clichy (for Arshavin, 84) Provided extra cover late on. n/a

James Mariner

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album