Arsenal captain William Gallas bundled in a late equaliser to rescue a point in their opening Champions League Group G game against Dynamo Kiev in the Ukraine last night. Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin van Persie, twice, and Cesc Fabregas all had good first-half chances for the north London club, who have still yet to win a European tie in the former Soviet Union.
Kiev looked to have made them pay a heavy price when, on 64 minutes, Bacary Sagna was adjudged to have pushed over Ognjen Vukojevic and Ismael Bangoura scored from the penalty spot. Then, as full-time loomed, Gallas – who had made a mistake in the build-up to the goal – netted at close range from a low cross by Theo Walcott.
Arsène Wenger felt there should have been more time for his men to go on and win the tie. The Arsenal manager confronted the referee following the final whistle, which he believed came too soon. "I wanted to understand how we played only three minutes of injury-time, and then only had one minute," said Wenger. "It looks like through inspiration of the referee, and he could not explain it. He just said it was enough.
"When he got to 1-1, there was no game any more. We were on top, they looked very tired, but the game was finished because of the interruptions for injuries and stoppages. You could feel the game was there for the taking, but we had no more opportunity to play."
Only a small pocket of 150 or so Arsenal supporters, mainly from Russian or Ukrainian fan clubs, were present in the 17,000-strong crowd, yet they almost had something to celebrate inside two minutes. Van Persie got in down the right channel from Walcott's pass, but his low angled shot was saved at the near post by Stanislav Bogush.
Dynamo soon settled and began to build a sustained period of pressure yet Arsenal 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 but the Togo striker sent his shot wide.
As half-time approached, Van Persie rifled the ball into the side netting following good work from full-back Sagna down the right. Arsenal then carved out an even better chance when Adebayor fed Van Persie with a ball across goal that he cut back for Fabregas who could only manage a tame shot straight at the 'keeper from six yards.
At the start of the second half, Kiev almost snatched the lead when Eremenko got clear down the right and cut inside Gallas. Manuel Almunia, the Arsenal goalkeeper, got enough of a fingertip to his shot to deflect it off the inside post and was able to regather.
A mistake by Gallas 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 – the referee had seen enough contact to immediately point to the penalty spot as well as brandish a yellow card.
Guinea international Bangoura sent Almunia the wrong way and, after 64 minutes, turn the match in favour of the hosts.
The Arsenal side were now chasing a game they should have already wrapped up following their first-half dominance and it took Gallas's late intervention to rescue the visitors. "It was really hard," said the Frenchman. "When you see you can win the game it is normal to be disappointed. I'm very disappointed, like the players and the manager."
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).
l Two goals in two minutes from Argentines Lisandro Lopez and Lucho Gonzalez helped Porto to a 3-1 win over Fenerbahce in the other Group G game last night.
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).