Thursday 19 September 2013
There were mixed fortunes for Barclays Premier League clubs on Wednesday night as Arsenal got their UEFA Champions League off to a winning start with a victory against Olympique Marseille but Chelsea suffered a surprise home defeat at the hands of FC Basel.
Arsenal achieved a club record 10th consecutive away win as they completed a hard-fought victory in their opening Champions League group match thanks to second-half strikes by Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey.
Having been drawn in a tough section including Borussia Dortmund and Napoli, the Gunners were eager to get off to a strong start in the competition but initially found the going tough against a Ligue 1 side who matched the visitors blow for blow in an evenly contested first half.
"It was a victory of patience and experience"
After the interval Arsenal were grateful to Kieran Gibbs for heading off the line when Per Mertesacker's clearance looped behind him and over the stranded Wojciech Szczesny but just three minutes later Arsene Wenger's side had broken the deadlock. Gibbs' cross was headed into the air by Jeremy Morel and Walcott dispatched the falling ball into the top corner with a well-taken volley.
With seven minutes left Aaron Ramsey drilled his sixth goal of the season past Steve Mandanda to give the Londoners breathing space and, although Jordan Ayew converted an added-time penalty after Andre Ayew had been tripped by Ramsey, Arsenal held on for their record-breaking win.
"We were a bit timid but overall it was a victory of patience and experience, even if we were not flamboyant," said Wenger. "We know we have all these players that can make something special happen. I knew it would be a difficult game.
"[Theo] Walcott scored the most difficult of his chances this season, but that will give him a much-needed confidence boost. [Aaron] Ramsey has been outstanding. Every time he is in a good position now, he scores."
Chelsea suffered their first ever opening night defeat in the group stage of the Champions League despite taking the lead against Basel at Stamford Bridge.
Manager Jose Mourinho looked destined for another victory in the competition he has twice previously won with Porto and Inter Milan when his side took the lead through Oscar’s fine finish on the stroke of half-time, but Basel rallied after the break as Mohamed Salah and Marco Streller earned the Swiss Super-League side a memorable victory.
"When we lose I am responsible"
The hosts gave first starts to new signings Willian and Marco van Ginkel and began well enough with Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard narrowly missing the target, but Basel's defence held firm until the final moments of the first period when Oscar wheeled away from his marker and sent a precise angled- shot past Yann Sommer, after being picked out by Lampard's slide-rule pass. It was the Brazil international’s sixth goal in seven appearances in the competition.
Oscar came close to doubling his tally in the second half with a wonderful curling effort from range that rebounded off the crossbar, but the Blues were pegged back on 71 minutes by a fine team move which culminated in Salah sweeping a first-time shot past Petr Cech. Basel produced the winner 10 minutes later as Streller eluded his markers to glance Matias Delgado’s corner in at Cech’s near post.
"The second goal was very difficult to accept," said Mourinho, who refused to lay the finger of blame on any one individual. "We work a lot on defensive set-pieces and the header was in a position where we had two players defending the zone, plus a player marking [Marco] Streller. Three players made a mistake and we were punished because of that. I am so happy to come here in the fantastic moments and say this player was great or fantastic; when we lose I am responsible and I do not like to talk about individual players.
"We want to believe in each other, be critical inside and try to resolve things inside and we will try to win against Fulham in the Premier League and in the next match in the Champions League. We have to try to get the three points."
Chelsea and Arsenal made it a clean sweep for English sides in the UEFA Youth League as they, like Manchester United and Manchester City on Tuesday, scored four goals each in convincing victories.
The Blues got off to a fortuitous start in the inaugural competition, which pits the Under-19 teams of the 32 UEFA Champions League participants against each other in an autumn programme that mirrors the senior sides' group stage campaigns, when Deni Kadoic turned in Islam Feruz's low strike on 20 minutes. Thereafter Chelsea never looked back as John Swift doubled the west Londoners' lead seven minutes later and Feruz and Alexander Kiwomya produced second-half strikes.
Arsenal were the only side in the competition to record an away victory on Wednesday as they ran out 4-1 winners over Marseille at Carnoux en Provence. The Gunners took an early lead thanks to Alex Iwobi's measured seventh-minute finish but it was not until the second half that they established their superiority, Iwobi and Kristoffer Olsson combining to set up Serge Gnabry. The German forward scored again and, after Deyan Iliev scored at the wrong end, Arsenal restored their three-goal lead through Jack Jebb 12 minutes from the end.
UEFA Champions League results
FC Schalke 3-0 Steaua Bucharest
Chelsea (Oscar) 1-2 FC Basel
Olympique Marseille 1-2 Arsenal (Walcott; Ramsey)
Napoli 2-1 Borussia Dortmund
UEFA Youth League results
FC Schalke 3-0 Steaua Bucharest
Chelsea (Kadoic og; Swift; Feruz; Kiwomya) 4-0 FC Basel
Olympique Marseille 1-4 Arsenal (Iwobi; Gnabry 2; Jebb)
Napoli 1-0 Borussia Dortmund