Arsenal cement Group B lead with 'sloppy' win over Greeks
Olympiakos put up a good fight at the Emirates, but Arsenal did enough to go three points clear at the top of Group B
Arsenal 3 Olympiakos 1. It wasn't as easy as the scoreline suggests, but Arsenal maintained their winning start to the Champions League with a 3-1 defeat of Olympiakos. The Gunners were made to work for their three points against a dogged Greek side, but with Schalke drawing 2-2 with Montpellier in Group B's other game of the night, it means Arsenal are three points clear at the top of the table.
"This is a results industry and we got the result," said Steve Bould, again deputising for Arsene Wenger, who was serving the second of a three game touchline ban by Uefa. "We ground it out. I don't think they had too many chances, we limited them to a few and we could have perhaps scored a few more. So without being fantastic, we've had a great result."
There was a subdued atmosphere at the Emirates from the start, the heavy rain not helping, and a noticeable number of empty seats suggested Arsenal fans had better things to do with their Wednesday evening than watch their boys take on the Greek champions.
Though Arsenal dominated possession in the first 30 minutes it was the visitors who had the best chance of the opening period, Paulo Machado blazing over from point blank range after good work by Giannis Maniatis down the right flank.
Five minutes later Arsenal punished the Greeks for their poor finishing when Gervinho's low shot beat Balazs Megyeri in the Olympiakos goal. It was the Ivorian's fifth goal of the season and further proof that he's come of age in an Arsenal shirt.
Not that Gervinho had much time to bask in his triumph. The visitors struck back almost immediately – and right on the stroke of half-time – as Leandro Greco's swinging cross was headed home by Kostas Mitroglou.
With Wenger watching from the stand it was left to Steve Bould to deliver the half-time rocket and whatever he said worked. Arsenal emerged for the second half looking sharper, keener and altogether more dangerous.
Ten minutes after the restart they had their reward when Gervinho's mazy run down the left resulted in Lukas Podolski firing home a shot that beat Megyeri for pace.
The Gunners had more chances to kill off their guests in the final quarter but it wasn't until the last minute of stoppage time that Aaron Ramsey ran on to a neat flick on from Olivier Giroud, and coolly chipped the ball over the keeper and into the net. Harsh on the Greeks, perhaps, but Arsenal won't care about that.
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen admitted later that they had been "sloppy" in the first half, but said it was the half-time team talk that turned it around. "Steve Bould was not angry," explained Vermaelen. "He said what was wrong and he said that we needed to be more cautious with the ball and not to lose it."
Arsenal's next opponents in Group B are Schalke, who visit the Emirates on 24 October, and Bould warned that his side must guard against complacency. "There is an awful long way to go," he said.
"The [Schalke] game is two weeks away… we'll address that when it comes but it'll be tough."