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Thursday 04 October 2012

Champions League: Man City spared blushes; Arsenal sink Olympiakos

Late spot-kick earns City first point while Arsenal maintain perfect start by beating Olympiacos

Joe Hart kept Man City in the game with a number of crucial saves

Manchester City 1-1 Borussia Dortmund

Substitute Mario Balotelli’s 90th-minute penalty rescued Manchester City from a second consecutive defeat in the UEFA Champions League as the Barclays Premier League champions drew with Borussia Dortmund at the Etihad Stadium in Group D.

Dortmund defender Neven Subotic was adjudged to have deliberately handled a hooked shot by Sergio Aguero, and Balotelli rolled in the resulting spot-kick to earn Man City a point.

Marco Reus had put Dortmund ahead in the 61st minute when he pounced on a pass from substitute Jack Rodwell to charge through and beat goalkeeper Joe Hart, who kept City in the match with a string of saves.

In an open first half that was end-to-end and played in pouring rain, the England No 1 tipped shots from Mario Goetze on to a post and crossbar and also saved brilliantly from Ilkay Gundogan.

Hart also produced a number of great blocks early in the second half, denying Goetze and Gundogan, but he was unable to stop Reus. The nimble forward read Rodwell's pass across the defensive line and raced through before placing a shot to the right of Hart, who got a hand to the ball but could not stop it sailing into the far corner.

Roberto Mancini's charges had chances of their own, mostly through David Silva, who set up Aguero for two one-on-one opportunities that were saved in the first half, while Pablo Zabaleta shot over after running on to another pass from Silva. The home side were under the pressure for most of the second half, but emerged with a point thanks to Balotelli's coolness under pressure.

City have just one point from their opening two games, while Dortmund have four, two behind group leaders Real Madrid, who beat Ajax 4-1 in Amsterdam. The Dutch side are bottom of the group with no points and next host City in three weeks' time.

Group H results

Ajax 1-4 Real Madrid
Manchester City 1-1 Borussia Dortmund

Aaron Ramsey scores Arsenal's third goal against Olympiacos

Arsenal 3-1 Olympiacos

Arsenal maintained their perfect start to the UEFA Champions League with Gervinho, Lukas Podolski and Aaron Ramsey scoring in a victory over Olympiacos.

Gervinho's 43rd minute-opener was soon cancelled out by Kostas Mitroglou's header for the Greek champions, but Arsenal resumed control after the break to ensure they stayed top of Group B.

The Ivory Coast forward turned provider in the 56th minute, picking out Podolski in the penalty area, whose shot went straight through goalkeeper Balazs Megyeri. Ramsey made sure of the victory in stoppage time, dinking the ball over Megyeri as Arsenal made a lightning attack.

The Gunners were looking for an immediate response to their first defeat of the season on Saturday at the hands of Chelsea in the Barclays Premier League, and they got it.

With manager Arsene Wenger again looking on from the stands as he serves a touchline ban from UEFA, Arsenal pressed with verve and conviction inspired by Santi Cazorla from the start. The Spain midfielder almost gave Arsenal an early lead as his free-kick was saved by Megyeri.

Olympiacos's defence was breached first as Kieran Gibbs and Podolski combined down the left and the ball reached the edge of the area, where Gervinho seized it and struck a low shot back across into the corner of the goal.

The visitors immediately pushed for the equaliser and, in first-half- injury time, they got it. Leandro Greco sent a precise cross from the left that Mitroglou glanced into the far corner.

After Cazorla had squandered a chance for Arsenal to go back in front in the second half, Gervinho combined with the Spaniard before feeding the ball to Podolski, who shot through the legs of Megyeri.

In injury time, Vito Mannone's long clearance was flicked on by Olivier Giroud to fellow substitute Ramsey, who coolly lifted the ball over the onrushing Megyeri to ease home nerves.

Arsenal lead on six points from Schalke, who are on four after being held to a 2-2 draw at home to Montpellier. That was the Ligue 1 side's first point, putting them third above Olympiacos, who have yet to register.

Wenger's side next face Schalke at the Emirates Stadium on October 24th.

Group B results

Arsenal 3-1 Olympiacos
Schalke 2-2 Montpellier

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Key Points

  • Mario Balotelli's last-minute penalty earns Man City a point against Borussia Dortmund
  • German champions denied victory by number of saves from Joe Hart
  • Arsenal maintain 100% start with 3-1 victory at home to Olympiacos