Arsenal missed out on the chance to go through into the Champions League knockout stages as group winners as a largely second-string lineup fell to a 2-1 defeat to Olympiakos in Greece.
While the result may ultimately count for little, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger will doubtless still be disappointed to see his team’s recent poor form continue. The much-changed side, featuring just four players who started the defeat to Swansea on Saturday actually took the lead through Tomas Rosicky’s first-half strike. But Olympiakos responded after the break with goals from Giannis Maniatis and Konstantinos Mitrouglou.
With Schalke only drawing in Montpellier, a win would have seen Arsenal finish top of Group B and in theory secure an easier draw in the next round. Arsenal started brightly too at the Karaiskaki Stadium as Gervinho flashed a shot high and wide of the near post on his left side.
The Gunners were largely wasteful in the final third, though. First Marouane Chamakh failed to control a deflected Gervinho through ball in the box and soon after Aaron Ramsey missed an even bigger chance to give the visitors the lead. Chamakh headed back across goal from a deep Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross and the ball struck an Olympiakos defender and came nicely into the path of the Welsh midfielder, but Ramsey completely miscued with his left foot.
For much of the first half, it was the Greek league leaders that were the side with a greater control of proceedings. Rosicky was forced to clear off the line after Vassilas Torosidis was allowed to rise and get a header on goal from a right-wing corner.
Particularly impressive for Olympiakos was Djamel Abdoun, who continued to threaten coming inside from the left. The Algerian forced Wojciech Szczesny into a first meaningful save in the 24th minute as he struck a firm shot from just inside the area and from the resulting corner striker Rafik Djebbour headed straight at the Arsenal goalkeeper when unchallenged.
Abdoun continued to be Olympiakos’ main creative force as he went on a tricky run to the edge of the Arsenal box before picking out Torosidis at the back post, but the defender shot wildly over the bar.
Perhaps slightly against the run of play, it was the visitors who struck first. Gervinho drove deep into the area down the right and pulled the ball back into the path of Rosicky who side-footed the ball with power and accuracy into the corner.
It was a fitting way for the Czech midfielder to mark an encouraging first start of the season after yet another injury absence.
Rosicky was replaced at the break by Andrey Arshavin and the Russian had a couple of chances to put his side further ahead. First he was unable to keep his header down from a Chamakh cross, before seeing a fierce shot saved by Olympiakos keeper Roy Carroll.
As the half progressed, though, Olympiakos began to reassert their superiority. Having earlier seen his delightful close control and disguised through ball been wasted by Lubomir Fejsa’s shot into the side netting, Abdoun’s fine play throughout finally brought about a goal.
It was he who swung a dangerous cross into the area and, after an initial header had cannoned off Ramsey, the ball fell kindly to Maniatis just a couple of yards out and the Greece international duly finished past Szczesny.
With 18 minutes to go, Olympiakos brought on the man with three goals already to his name in this Champions League campaign Konstantinos Mitroglou. And the striker made an instant impact as he struck the home side into the lead just a minute later. Mitroglou turned in from the left and, with the Arsenal defense failing to get close enough to close him down, hit a fine shot that zipped off the turf and into the far corner past the slow-to-react Szczesny.
Arsenal failed to test Carroll for the remaining minutes as they fell limply to defeat. With his senior stars faltering badly in the Premier League, the evening is unlikely to have encouraged boss Arsene Wenger that many of his fringe players are capable of coming into the side and making a positive impact.