William Gallas bundled in a late equaliser to rescue a point for Arsenal from their opening Champions League Group G game against Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine last night, in the process saving the blushes of a number of his team-mates. Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie, twice, and Cesc Fabregas all missed good first-half chances for the Gunners, who have yet to win a European tie in the former Soviet Union.
Kiev appeared to have made them pay when Bacary Sagna was adjudged to have pushed over Ognjen Vukojevic and Ismael Bangoura scored a 64th-minute penalty – only for Gallas to score two minutes from time at close range.
A problem with a new ticketing system led to congestion at the turnstiles and only around three-quarters of the home fans got in before kick-off. A small pocket of Arsenal supporters could be picked out in the far corner – and many of those 150 or so were from the Russian or Ukrainian fan clubs.
But the small travelling section almost had something to celebrate inside two minutes. Van Persie was played in down the right channel by Theo Walcott but his low angled shot was saved at the near post by Stanislav Bogush.
Dynamo – who took great delight in knocking Spartak Moscow out of the qualifiers – soon settled and began to build a sustained period of pressure.
Arsenal, though, continued to look dangerous on the break. In the 19th minute Adebayor capitalised on poor control by Roman Eremenko and sprinted into the Dynamo penalty area. However, the Togo striker sent his shot wide.
The home side entered another good spell, with Arsenal forced to defend deep just outside their own penalty area. However, the Gunners weathered the storm and then started to find more fluency in their passing as half-time approached.
Van Persie was fortunate to escape with only a stern talking to from Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo after a late tackle on Ayila Yussuf. The Dutchman then rifled the ball into the side netting following good work from full-back Sagna.
Arsenal carved out an even better chance when Adebayor fed Van Persie with a ball across goal, which was cut back for Fabregas, but he could only manage a tame shot straight at the 'keeper from six yards.
Kiev almost snatched the lead minutes into the second half when Eremenko got clear down the right and cut inside Arsenal's captain Gallas. Manuel Almunia got a fingertip to his shot, which came back off the inside of the post and the 'keeper was able to gather.
Andrei Nesmachniy tested the referee's patience once too often with another late challenge on Walcott, which resulted in the first yellow card on 57 minutes.
A mistake by Gallas then allowed Bangoura to get away down the right. Although Arsenal tracked back, the ball was eventually played into the penalty area, where Vukojevic went down under pressure from Sagna – and the referee had seen enough contact to immediately point to the spot before booking the defender.
Guinea international Bangoura stepped up to send Almunia the wrong way and, after 64 minutes, turn the match in the favour of the hosts.
Arsenal looked vulnerable to the counter-attack as they chased the game, and Bangoura hit the side netting following a quick break down the Dynamo left.
Eboué replaced Sagna for the final 13 minutes, before a far-post header by Adebayor almost sneaked in. Vela came on for Van Persie in a last throw of the dice by Wenger, and Arsenal rescued a point when Gallas bundled in at the far post following a low cross by Walcott.
Dynamo Kiev (4-5-1): Bogush; Nesmachniy, Mikhalik, Diakhate, Betao; Yussuf (Asatiani, 90), Vukojevic, Ninkovic, Aliev, Eremenko; Bangoura (Kravets, 90). Substitutes not used: Shovkovskiy, Ghioane, Morozyuk, Shatskikh, Romanchuk, Asatiani.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Clichy, Gallas, Touré, Sagna (Eboué, 78); Denilson, Song (Bendtner, 70), Fabregas, Walcott; Adebayor, Van Persie (Vela, 83). Substitutes not used: Fabianski, Ramsey, Wilshere, Djourou.
Referee: L Cantalejo (Spain).
Arsenal's remaining group stage fixtures: 30 Sept: Porto (h); 21 Oct: Fenerbahce (a); 5 Nov: Fenerbahce (h); 25 Nov: Dynamo Kiev (h); 10 Dec: Porto (a).Reuse content