Arsenal rode their luck at times tonight but can be pleased with a draw they worked hard for at the home of the German champions.
Make no mistake, Borussia Dortmund are a much better team than anybody Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd will have to play in the group stage. They are a lively side which cruised to the Bundesliga title last season. How UEFA decided they should be in pot four is a mystery to me, but then these are the same people who punished Wenger for following their instructions against Udinese, so perhaps it’s no surprise after all.
To return home with a point from an intimidating stadium holding 80,000 passionate German fans is a job well done. It is hugely encouraging because previous Arsenal sides low on form and confidence would’ve crumbled, but we showed bottle and character to hang on in there after a shaky start, nick a goal and only be denied victory by a world class strike that Ivan Perisic couldn’t repeat if he had another 1,000 goes.
Let’s face it, how many of you feared a Dortmund winner after they equalised? I know I did. It’ll do wonders for our confidence that we withstood the injury time onslaught thanks to a brave save from Szczesny and a terrific block from Koscielny.
In fact Koscielny’s performance was symbolic of our night in general. He started off very hesitantly when a ninth minute hoof from defence went over his head leaving Kevin Grosskreutz clear, but thankfully the striker blazed over. Szczesny screamed at Koscielny as did thousands of Gooners in their living rooms I suspect. Three minutes later he was caught napping behind the other defenders and when Mertesacker stepped up to play offside, Koscielny kept them on. Sagna did well to clear off the line.
Robin van Persie showed great composure to score his goal
We were under the cosh, no doubt. Our defence was totally exposed as the midfield trio of Song, Benayoun and Arteta were chasing shadows. Benayoun didn’t know where to run and he looked a lot more comfortable when he pushed further forward, allowing Arteta to playmake from a deeper role. It was from that advanced role that Benayoun played van Persie through on 33 minutes, but his weak effort was pushed wide.
The Dutchman made no mistake 10 minutes later though when he ran onto a perfectly weighted through ball from the otherwise anonymous Walcott and cooly scored with his weaker right foot. 1-0 at the break and we were fortunate to be leading.
Pat Rice’s teamtalk must’ve been good as we were more solid in the second half and the Germans didn’t once carve us open as they had done previously. We had the best chance of the half in fact when Gervinho bundled his way onto Sagna’s long ball on the hour mark and was denied by a point-blank save.
The Germans were frustrated as we sat deep and absorbed a lot of pressure, restricting their chances but at the same time not threatening their goal – we didn’t have another chance after Gervinho’s effort.
But that didn’t matter, we looked like we could hold on with Song imperious in the anchorman role, dispossessing opponents all over the park. Frimpong entered the fray for the last 15 minutes to help him and we were only troubled once, when Szczesny got down well to smother a close range shot after a corner wasn’t dealt with.
That was until the 88th minute, when Perisic struck his once in a lifetime volley and I wondered if we had the nerve to hold on to our point. Szczesny made a brave block to deny Lewandowski and Dortmund would get one final chance in the 92nd minute. Which brings us nicely back to Koscielny, who played like a frightened lamb in the first half but who had improved dramatically from then on, as had the whole team. The young Frenchman stepped up to make a brilliant block and deny the hosts an undeserved winner.
I suspect Koscielny – and his teammates – left the field with his morale, confidence and self-respect a lot higher than when he entered it. And with important league games coming up, that is the best result of the night for me.
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