Robert Lewandowski showed his clinical touch once more with a late goal to give Borussia Dortmund a 2-1 win over Arsenal at the Emirates. The 82nd minute strike came at a time when the home side were on top and looking the team most likely to get the winner, but they criminally left the Polish striker free to side-foot a volley into the rain-soaked net.
Despite being in the midst of their best spell of the match, Arsenal were unable to regain their composure after going behind and an equalizer never looked on the cards. For much of the first half, Dortmund had been the team in command. Last season’s Champions League finalists showcased their trademark high pressing to disrupt Arsenal’s game and gain the territorial advantage.
Their reward came when Aaron Ramsey was dispossessed deep inside his own half 16 minutes in and within seconds Henrikh Mkhitaryan shot past Wojciech Szczesny. However, a defensive mishap from Dortmund gifted the hosts an equalizer four minutes before the break when Olivier Giroud was able to volley home into an unguarded net.
Arsenal had gradually come into the match more as the second half wore on, with Dortmund’s incessant work without the ball appearing to catch up with them as the pitch became heavier in the teeming rain. Still, the Premier League leaders couldn’t test Roman Weidenfeller in the Dortmund goal, with the closest they came being an effort from Santi Cazorla that struck the top of the bar.
Arsene Wenger will argue that Szczesny wasn’t tested all that much either, but in the end it was Dortmund that showed the clinical edge. For Arsenal, certainly missing the tenacity of Mathieu Flamini in midfield, it was a first defeat since the opening match of the Premier League season and perhaps something of a reality check after all the hype surrounding their fine start to the campaign.
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Dortmund, who were also missing key midfielders in Ilkay Gundogan and captain Sebastian Kehl, provided further evidence that they could once again go far in this season’s Champions League. After a Matchday One loss to Napoli, they now have six points, level with both Arsenal and Napoli in what promises to be a group that will go down to the wire. The two sides meet again in Dortmund in two weeks’ time.
Not in the slightest bit intimidated by Arsenal’s recent form, Dortmund came out pressing high up the pitch and gaining the territorial advantage from the off. Marco Reus provided the first threat on goal with a shot wide from 20 yards. Arsenal, meanwhile, were struggling to match the intensity of their opponents as well as to hold possession under the pressure they were facing. There was little surprise then in the manner of Dortmund’s opening goal.
Ramsey, so outstanding at the start of the season, was this time the culprit as he dallied too long on the ball just outside his own area. Reus applied the pressure and nicked the ball for Lewandowski, who laid it across the edge of the box, and Mkhitaryan hit a first-time shot that was far from the sweetest he will ever strike but wrong-footed Szczesny to find the back of the net.
While Arsenal were showing a lack of energy closing down Dortmund, they were also labored with the ball. There was little of the creative spark that was apparent against Norwich at the weekend and has so often been present at the start of the season.
Giroud was one of the few Arsenal players performing to his potential and troubling the Bayern back line. Mats Hummels was particularly ill at ease. Having brought the French striker down just outside the area on the right, he was then beaten on the left. This time it was nearly far more costly, but Hummels redeemed himself to get back on the line and block Tomas Rosciky’s resulting volley.
With both teams’ midfields exceedingly narrow, there was space throughout for the full-backs. For the majority of the first half, though, their delivery had been poor when getting into advanced areas. But in the 41st minute, Bacary Sagna finally provided a quality cross. With Dortmund left-back Marcel Schmelzer slow to get put to the Frenchman, Sagna whipped in a teasing ball that led to a lack of communication between Neven Subotic and Roman Weidenfeller and the ball came off the Dortmund goalkeeper and fell perfectly for Giroud to get his reward for his endeavor with a volley smashed into the empty net.
There was initially little sign of the goal giving Arsenal a boost at the start of the second half. But as time moved on, Dortmund, perhaps through a combination of tiredness and not wanting to take unnecessary risks to throw away a valuable point, dropped off and Arsenal began to assume control. There was a setback when Jack Wilshere was forced off with an ankle problem just before the hour mark, although it was his replacement Cazorla that came closest to putting Arsenal in front with a first-time curling effort that clipped the top of the bar.
A draw would have been a helpful result for both teams, but Arsenal pushed in search of a winner and were exposed on the break. For the umpteenth time in the match, right-back Kevin Grosskreutz was found in space coming forward. This time, though, he was able to seize the opportunity with a floated cross that took advantage of Arsenal’s defenders being drawn across to his side and Sagna failing to get back, allowing Lewandowski to come in at the back post unchecked and volley clinically and crisply into the net.