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

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
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.

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?