Gunners come from behind to beat French champions

Montpellier 1 Arsenal 2

Arsenal got their Champions League campaign off to a winning start after coming from behind to beat Montpellier 2-1 in France.

Manager Arsene Wenger, serving the first of his three-game touchline UEFA ban, would have been fuming from the stands when captain Thomas Vermaelen gave away an early penalty, although replays suggested the foul was probably just outside the box.

However, the Premier League club - coached by assistant boss Steve Bould from the sidelines for the first time - responded magnificently and were soon level through a fine finish by German Lukas Podolski.

Before the French side, making their Champions League debut following last season's brilliant Ligue 1 campaign, could recover, Arsenal swept ahead on 18 minutes through Gervinho.

Although the hosts rallied after the break, with lively winger Remi Cabella hitting the crossbar and goalscorer Younes Belhanda missing a great chance late on when he fired straight at stand-in goalkeeper Vito Mannone, the Gunners closed out a battling victory.

Combative midfielder Abou Diaby had only just returned from injury to the starting XI - and went straight into the referee's notebook inside the first minute when he clattered Marco Estrada.

Arsenal settled well, and soon had the hosts on the back foot.

However, Montpellier remained dangerous on the counter-attack - and took a somewhat controversial lead on nine minutes.

Gunners captain Thomas Vermaelen slid in on Belhanda at the far right edge of the penalty area, and the Moroccan went down in a heap. However, the assistant on the goalline indicated the foul was inside the box - much to the disbelief of the visitors.

Belhanda got up to take the spot-kick himself, netting Montpellier's first Champions League goal with a nonchalant chip.

Arsenal responded well to trailing for the first time this season - and were behind for less than 10 minutes.

Summer signings Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, playing against his old club, combined with some slick passing on the edge of the Montpellier area to slip Podolski clear - and the German tucked the ball under goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren.

Before the home side could regroup, Arsenal struck again on 18 minutes.

This time the damage was done down the right, as the ball was recycled quickly through Gervinho and Giroud out to full-back Carl Jenkinson, who darted toward the line before cutting the ball back across the six-yard box - where Gervinho arrived on cue to bundle in it.

To their credit, Rene Girard's side - who battled against the odds to beat big-spending Paris St Germain to the championship last season - refused to lie down and slowly built up some momentum again.

In the 33rd minute, Argentina forward Estrada - brought in to offset the departure of Giroud - made space for a shot from 20 yards, which Mannone tipped around the post.

Arsenal, though, continued to look menacing through their quick breaks.

As half-time approached, Giroud, who struck 21 goals for Montpellier last season, swept wide after Kieran Gibbs crossed from the left.

Arsenal, though, were almost caught out following the restart when Diaby dithered on the ball inside his own area and was robbed by Cabella, who slammed a shot just wide of the angle.

Montpellier continued to make the most of their dominant spell, as Arsenal were guilty of some stray passing when out to break up possession.

Cabella remained the dangerman, and 10 minutes into the second half he clipped a delightful 20-yard chip against the crossbar.

Diaby then surged through the Montpellier side and played in Cazorla, whose angled drive was beaten behind by the keeper.

Arsenal appeared to have weathered most of the home side's storm.

With 15 minutes left, £12million striker Giroud was replaced by Aaron Ramsey. The France international left the field to general applause, although there were some boos around the unforgiving Stade de la Mosson.

Belhanda spurned a golden opportunity to level with 10 minutes left when some quick footwork sidestepped Per Mertesacker after a cross into the Arsenal box from the right, but he then fired straight at Mannone.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn