Fabregas agony while Wenger rages against 'useless' system

Braga 2 Arsenal 0

Three days after a humiliation at home to their greatest enemies, Arsenal's much-changed side found themselves between a rock and a hard place at Braga's extraordinary stadium last night. They not only failed to secure the draw required to reach the second stage of the Champions League for the 11th season in a row, but suffered a second successive defeat in Group H to late goals by a team they beat 6-0 two months ago.

Braga scored two breakaway goals against ten men, Emmanuel Eboué having been carried off on a stretcher after Cesc Fabregas suffered another hamstring injury that will keep him out of this weekend's trip to Aston Villa. Despite all that, the London side should still qualify but they are fortunate that the final match is at home to the weakest team in the section, Partizan Belgrade.

Arsène Wenger, who had made seven changes after the collapse against Tottenham on Saturday, was left furious by the tackle on Eboué and the "useless" new system of extra referee's assistants. He felt the one behind the goal Arsenal were attacking in the second half should have spotted a clear foul on Carlos Vela, who received a yellow card instead for diving. "It is a disappointing result because we played a team that camped in their own half and we've somehow lost," he said. "Eboué has been kicked off the park without any punishment and we have been denied a certain penalty. What is the fifth official doing if he can't see that? It's an absolutely useless system.

"Other than that, it was a difficult game against a team that used all the tricks to slow the game down. We made a mistake, a lack of concentration and communication, and were punished for it." Eboué, he said, would be out for "a few weeks" with a medial ligament strain.

Although Wenger wanted fresh legs in the team, the benefit was muted. Only four players kept their place from the Tottenham game: Lukasz Fabianski, who could do nothing about the two goals, Sebastien Squillaci, who might have done better, Fabregas, who had to come through a fitness test on the morning of the game, and Denilson. There were absentees, too, among the Arsenal support, many of whom were unable to take an extra day off once they learnt that it would be impossible to get out of Portugal because of the general strike which began at midnight.

Those loyalists who did make it must have been startled by the stadium, which was hewn out of rock for Euro 2004 and still has only a cliff behind each goal. Braga have thrived since moving there and last season's runners-up position was their best ever. Even if the margin of defeat at the Emirates was an exaggerated reflection of that game, they still did not look like a team who should have been beating Arsenal. But Wenger's team lacked the focus and concentration that he had promised would return in the wake of the Tottenham match.

They attacked from the outset without producing either the final pass or a yellow shirt to get on the end of crosses whipped over by Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott. Both did some good work without finding Nicklas Bendtner in the right place to profit. Braga, who had not played at all for ten days, were no better and mainly worse, so it was fully half an hour before either side managed a genuine threat. Then Eboué ventured forward to win a free-kick, which Fabregas curled over the wall, forcing the goalkeeper Felipe to concede a corner.

That turned out to be Arsenal's only shot on target, which made the other notable statistic – 64 per cent of possession – all the more disappointing. If the defence was generally comfortable until the last few minutes, the danger was that Braga, who had to win, would do as Tottenham had done on the counter-attack in the second half. So it proved.

Matheus had a chance to punish Wenger's team but drove Leandro's pass wide. The home side took heart from that and in the next attack three minutes later Squillaci could only head out Alan's cross to the edge of the area, from where Luis Aguiar sent it wide.

Arsenal's prospects were not improved when Fabregas indicated that he needed to come off with another hamstring problem. He had stretched in vain for a through ball from Bendtner.

Marouane Chamakh soon came on for Bendtner and Walcott was replaced by Vela, who had only just arrived when he tumbled over Alberto Rodriguez's challenge and received a booking instead of a penalty. Worse was to come. With Eboué carried off after a tackle by Matheus and no other substitutes available, the Braga man was left running free through the middle to score. In the final minute he did even better for a terrific individual goal.

"It is hard to swallow, but now we have to win our last game," Wenger said. "The most important thing for us now is to qualify."

Braga (4-2-3-1) Felipe; M Garcia, Moises, A Rodriguez, Elderson; Vandinho (Viana, 89), Leandro Salino; Alan, Aguiar (Madrid, 80), Matheus; Lima (Elton, 81). Substitutes not used Artur (gk), Mossoro, Silvio, Capela.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1) Fabianski; Eboué, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs; Denilson, Wilshere; Walcott (Vela, 76), Fabregas (Nasri, 69), Rosicky; Bendtner (Chamakh, 73). Substitutes not used Szczesny (gk), Sagna, Koscielny, Song.

Referee V Kassai (Hungary).

Attendance 25,000.

Man of the match Matheus.

Match rating 5/10.

Partizan 0-3 Shakhtar Donetsk

Shakhtar Donetsk moved top of Group H with a strong second-half showing in Belgrade last night. Taras Stepanenko scored first with Jadson Rodriguez and Eduardo da Silva securing the points.

Group H

Results so far Arsenal 6-0 Braga, Shakhtar 1-0 Partizan; Partizan 1-3 Arsenal, Braga 0-3 Shakhtar; Braga 2-0 Partizan, Arsenal 5-1 Shakhtar; Partizan 0-1 Braga, Shakhtar 2-1 Arsenal; Braga 2-0 Arsenal, Partizan 0-3 Shakhtar.

Remaining fixtures 8 Dec Arsenal v Partizan, Shakhtar v Braga.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
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.

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower