Ramsey shines while young Gunners lose with honour

Olympiakos 1 Arsenal 0

Arsene Wenger can rarely have enjoyed a defeat so much. With qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League already in the bag, last night's match against Olympiakos was all about how his young stars would get on: despite defeat courtesy of a Geraldo Leonardo goal, he will have been pleased with what he saw. While Tom Cruise was understandably centre of attention (at least until the real Tom Cruise turned up at Seville), it was Aaron Ramsey who impressed most, playing in place of Cesc Fabregas as Arsenal's playmaker.

You could tell just how satisfied Wenger was at the final whistle: not only did he shake his Olympiakos counterpart Zico's hand, but he also honoured him with a big hug. Mark Hughes, watch and weep.

"I am very proud of the young players, there are a lot of positives," Wenger said. "From Barnet to Athens is a big jump, but they did very well. Nobody was disappointing, and it is difficult to single out individual performances, although Ramsey had a good presence, gave good balls and produced a good work rate. They all looked like they played every week in this competition.

"These youngsters play exactly like the first team, and they represented Arsenal well tonight," he added, "despite the fact that they are the youngest team to have played in the Champions League."

Cruise, 18, was handed his Arsenal debut at left-back while the England forward Theo Walcott, fit again following a hamstring problem, also started. Olympiakos needed only a point to join Arsenal in the last 16 but it was, though, a bright start by the young Gunners with Fran Merida seeing plenty of the ball in the middle. Ramsey was also heavily involved. After 10 minutes, Walcott broke into the right side of the penalty area, but his rising shot was parried by the goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis.

Olympiakos broke quickly through Argentine Luciano Galletti down the right, with Oscar Gonzalez touching the ball off to Kostas Mitroglou, only for the Greek striker to fire over the crossbar.

Walcott continued to look menacing, and again burst into the area, this time on the left before being crowded out by two defenders. Arsenal had a free-kick on the left when Dudu was penalised for handball, giving another chance to swing a cross into the danger zone. Walcott laid the ball back to Ramsey, but his angled drive was always rising.

Raul Bravo volleyed over as another home counter-attack came to nothing, much to the frustration of the crowd. Their misery turned to jubilation, however, when Olympiakos took the lead at the start of the second half. Kyle Bartley upended Oscar Gonzalez, but the referee played a good advantage as Leonardo latched on to the loose ball and dashed into the left side of the area before slotting through Lukasz Fabianski's legs to put the Greeks within sight of the knockout stages.

Arsenal should have equalised when Ramsey dashed clear down the Olympiakos left and to the edge of the 18-yard box before cleverly cutting a pass square to Carlos Vela, but the Mexican hit his shot straight at the keeper.

Arsenal's youngsters continued to fight to the end, almost grabbing a late equaliser when Ramsey's close-range effort was cleared off the line, and will certainly have grown wiser from the experience.

Olympiakos (4-4-1-1): Nikopolidis; Galitsios, A Papadopoulos, Mellberg, Raul Bravo; Galletti, Dudu (Domi, 86), Maresca, Leonardo; Oscar (Pantos, 90); Mitroglou. Substitutes not used: Pardo (gk), K Papadopoulos, Zairi, Georgios, Pantos, Katsikogiannis.

Arsenal (4-3-3): Fabianski; Gilbert, Bartley, Silvestre, Cruise; Ramsey, Song Billong, Merida; Walcott, Wilshere (Sunu, 77), Vela. Substitutes not used: Mannone (gk), Coquelin, Eastmond, Ayling, Randall.

Referee: L Batista (Portugal).

Group H

Results: Arsenal 2 S Liège 0, AZ Alkmaar 0 Olympiakos 0; Arsenal 4 AZ Alkmaar 1, S Liège 2 Olympiakos 0; AZ Alkmaar 1 Arsenal 1, Olympiakos 2 S Liège 1; Arsenal 2 Olympiakos 0, AZ Alkmaar 1 S Liège 1; Olympiakos 1 AZ Alkmaar 0, S Liège 2, Arsenal 3, Olympiakos 1 Arsenal 0, S Liège 1 AZ Alkmaar 1.

Arsenal's possible round of 16 opponents: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Milan, Porto, Lyons, Internazionale, Stuttgart.

Knockout round: The qualifiers

Group winners Bordeaux, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Fiorentina, Barcelona, Sevilla, Arsenal.

Runners-up Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Milan, Porto, Lyons, Internazionale, Stuttgart, Olympiakos.

Draw to be made 11am, Friday 18 December, in Nyon

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn