Emirates night of triumph for Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arsenal’s teenage star is youngest ever English Champions League scorer in 2-1 win over Olympiakos
Arsenal 2 Olympiakos 1. It wasn’t pretty, it was very nervy, but the fact remains Arsenal are the only one of the four English teams in the Champions League to record a win in the second round of pool matches.
With Manchester City losing 2-0 to Bayern Munich and Manchester United and Chelsea held to draws in their respective games, the Gunners cast aside their Premier League problems to see off the threat of Olympiakos thanks to first-half goals from new signings Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andre Santos.
For Oxlade-Chamberlain the night was one of triumph. The 18-year-old became the youngest English Champions League scorer when he shimmied his way across the Greek box and fired home on eight minutes, the highlight of a performance that will have warmed the cockles of Arsene Wenger’s heart as he looked on from the Emirates stand.
Serving the last of a two-match UEFA ban, the Arsenal manager was unable to wax lyrical over the teenage sensation so his assistant Pat Rice deputised.
"He can go inside, he can go outside, he's got that injection of pace and I think what he needs now is to be consistent in his play," said Rice of the player who was making his Champions League debut. "He is a very confident boy, a strong boy and he listens to what people tell him."
The squad ravaged by injury, Arsenal fielded a team with three Champions League debutants in total, a patched-up defence and a frontline without Robin van Persie, who was rested ahead of the weekend clash with Tottenham.
Yet despite the inexperience, the Gunners got off to a flyer with Oxlade-Chamberlain latching on to Alex Song’s delightful pass, then threading his way across the edge of the Olympiakos box before driving the ball low into the left-hand corner of the goal.
The hosts then extended their lead on 20 minutes when Santos galloped clear down the left flank and beat Franco Costanzo at his near post. Minutes later Marouane Chamakh had the opportunity to take the game beyond the reach of the visitors when he was put into acres of space by Andrey Arshavin but the Moroccan striker miscued.
The error was soon punished by Olympiakos as shocking defending allowed David Fuster a free header from a Ariel Ibagaza corner just before the half hour. The look on Wojciech Szczesny’s face as he fished the ball from his net was one of utter disgust with the non-existent marking of his teammates.
The Polish keeper was called into action twice before the break, saving well from Rafik Djebbour and Vassilis Torossidis, but in the second half the Gunners looked more solid at the back. Oxlade-Chamberlain, meanwhile, continued to cause the Greeks problems, forcing a sharp save from Costanzo early in the second period and prompting Jose Holebas into a wild lunge just outside the area that somehow went unpunished.
The closest either side came to scoring late on was a brilliant long-range banana shot from Torossidis that beat Szczesny all ends up but rebounded off the bar and out of harm’s way.
Arsenal now lie second in Group F, two points behind leaders Marseille who breezed past Borussia Dortmund 3-0 and will host the Gunners in the south of France in a fortnight’s time.