Arsenal took another step towards the knockout stages of the Champions League as the Gunners maintained their perfect start to the competition with a stuttering 3-1 home victory over Olympiakos.
Lukas Podoslki and substitute Aaron Ramsey struck in the second half to brighten up a largely uninspiring display from Arsene Wenger’s side after it struggled to break down well organized opponents for much of the evening.
Not that the Frenchman will care after a result that leaves Arsenal with six points from its opening two Group B fixtures and on course for another comfortable qualification for the second round of Europe’s elite competition.
The hosts controlled possession but lacked attacking thrust for much of the game, taking the lead against the run of play through Gervinho in the 42nd minute before Konstantinos Mitroglou deservedly leveled for Olympiakos on the stroke of halftime.
Podolski eased nerves in the Emirates Stadium after firing home in the 56th minute and Ramsey sealed the three points with an impudent finish with the last kick of the game.
It was far from perfect, however. What will most concern Wenger will be the lackadaisical performance of a back four that had looked so assured early in the season following the promotion of Arsenal legend Steve Bould to assistant manager.
While Arsenal displayed their usual domination of possession in the early exchanges, the central defensive pair of Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny was so casual they were virtually horizontal.
Mitroglou served a warning as his snapshot from the edge of the penalty area was saved by Vito Mannone before Paulo Machado missed a gift-wrapped chance, mishitting from inside the six-yard box after evading Arsenal defenders to meet Ioannis Maniatis’ cross.
Arsenal took a lead it barely deserved three minutes before the break through Gervinho. After excellent work from Santi Cazorla on the left, the ball broke for the Ivorian to shift into space and strike low into the corner from 20 yards for his fifth goal of the season.
The strike was met with relief all round from the home crowd but Olympiakos deservedly leveled on the stroke of halftime. Leandro Greco whipped in a wonderful cross from the left and Mitroglou was on hand to glance the ball into the far corner.
Arsene Wenger may not have been allowed in the dressing room at halftime due to a touchline ban but his anger with his side’s lack of attacking thrust would have been relayed to his players.
They responded after the break, especially through the twinkling toes of Cazorla and Gervinho as the latter began to torment the Olympiakos back four with his movement and trickery.
Cazorla wastefully shot wide from 12 yards before Podolski doubled the Gunners’ lead in the 56th minute, the German taking advantage of Olympiakos’ uncertain defending to swivel in the box and shoot low and hard through goalkeeper Balazs Megyeri’s legs.
Arsenal went hunting for a third. Koscielny headed over unmarked before substitutes Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud combined for the Frenchman to volley straight at Megyeri.
In the dying seconds, substitute Ramsey raced on to Giroud's flick-on and scooped a delightful finish over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Olympiakos still showed enough to prove it will not be the whipping boy and Arsenal faces a difficult return fixture, but the Gunners cruised home in the closing stages to complete the victory.
- Arsene Wenger
- Aaron Ramsey