Greek tragedy for Arsenal
But victorious Olympiakos still miss out on last 16 spot
By Jonathan Jurejko. Last Updated: December 6, 2011 10:54pm
Arsene Wenger's 200th European game did not go according to plan as under-strength Arsenal ended the UEFA Champions League group stage with an embarrassing 3-1 defeat at Olympiakos.
Wenger made a host of changes for his landmark game which was ultimately meaningless for the already-qualified Group F winners.
However, comical defensive errors allowed Rafik Djebbour and David Fuster to put the Greek side, needing a win to have any hope of joining the Gunners in the knockout stage, into a commanding 2-0 half-time lead.
Yossi Benayoun restored some pride with a superb volley after the break before Olympiakos reclaimed their two-goal lead through Francois Modesto's late tap-in.
But their efforts ultimately proved in vain as Marseille grabbed a last-gasp winner at Borussia Dortmund to book their last 16 spot alongside the Gunners.
Arsenal clinched their place in the last 16 for the 12th straight season with a 2-1 home win against Dortmund last month and Wenger used this game to blood several fringe players.
With only Thomas Vermaelen and Andre Santos keeping their places from Saturday's win at Premier League rivals Wigan, Arsenal had the look of one of Wenger's makeshift Carling Cup sides.
But he will have been worried to see his trusted back-up players, including Lukasz Fabianski, Johann Djourou and Sebastien Squillaci, make basic errors in a shaky defensive display.
It was always going to be a tough test for any Arsenal side in the cauldron-like atmosphere of the Karaiskakis Stadium, with Olympiakos needing victory and hoping Marseille slipped up in Dortmund.
The Greeks were expected to come flying out of the blocks and some loose Arsenal defending caused by Fabianski's shaky kick immediately put Wenger's men on the back foot in the opening minute. However, they escaped when Djebbour just failed to connect with Kevin Mirallas' right-wing pullback.
Unsurprisingly much-changed Arsenal looked a pale shadow of the side which has enjoyed a recent Premier League revival.
The Gunners continually failed to retain possession as they dangerously tried to play their way out from the back - and it just invited pressure from an Olympiakos side smelling blood.
Going forward Arsenal showed they had enough attacking talent, particularly through the pacy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to cut through the Greek defence with Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh going close.
But their defensive fraility refused to go away and when Djourou and Squillaci combined to get in each other's way Djebbour rounded the onrushing Fabianski before superbly slotting home.
Moments later Fabianski suffered a knee injury and had to be replaced by subsitute stopper Vito Mannone. But any hope the Gunners fans had of the Italian shoring things up quickly evaporated in the most comical fashion.
Mannone raced out of his area to bravely head away an Olympiakos throughball on the edge of his area before completely missing his kick as he haplessly tried to stop Fuster's return going past him over the line.
Olympiakos continued to put Arsenal on the back foot by pressing quickly at the start of the second half, before Benayoun brought Arsenal back into the game out of the blue on 57 minutes by showing great technique to smash home from 15 yards.
However, a breakdown in communication between Mannone and Vermaelen nearly gifted a third goal to the Greeks within seconds. Neither of the pair dealt with a dangerous centre from the right which allowed Modesto to nip in between them and plant a header agonisingly wide.
Tomas Rosicky entered the fray with 20 minutes left and he raced onto Benayoun's clever lobbed pass before seeing his stabbed shot stopped by the chest of home keeper Balazs Megyeri.But Arsenal got no closer as Mirallas twice missed decent chances before the Greeks wrapped up their deserved win through Modesto.
|2||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||4|
|13||Shots off Target||4|
|31.7||1st Half Poss.||68.3|
|42.5||2nd Half Poss.||57.5|
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Tue 6th Dec - Group G
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Tue 6th Dec - Group F
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