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?
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
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.

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game