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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent