Champions League - Dortmund peg back Arsenal
Tue, 13 Sep 21:41:00 2011
Arsenal conceded a late equaliser as they were pegged back to a 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund in their opening Champions League Group F clash at the Westfalenstadion.
The German champions dominated the possession in the first half but Robin van Persie rounded off a 42nd-minute move that he started to give Arsenal the lead against the run of play.
For so long it looked as though the Gunners would hold on to secure a vital away win, but substitute Ivan Perisic levelled on 88 minutes with a stunning volley to mark the Bundesliga club's return to the competition after a nine-year absence.
Deadline-day signings Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun and Per Mertesacker all made their first European appearances for Arsenal, with manager Arsene Wenger looking on from way up in the stands as he served the first match of a two-game touchline ban.
Wenger could only watch helplessly as Dortmund ran Arsenal ragged. Mario Goetze, Shinji Kagawa and Kevin Grosskreutz had little trouble playing their way through a distinctly lightweight Arsenal midfield.
In the opening quarter of an hour both Grosskreutz and Kagawa fired over the bar after latching on to balls over the top, before a similar pass from Goetze saw striker Robert Lewandowski round Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny, but the Pole was off balance as he shot and Bacary Sagna was able to block on the line.
Dortmund continually hit Arsenal with effective counter-attacks, but the visitors could have been ahead when Benayoun got his through ball to Van Persie at the second attempt, the Dutchman forcing a save from Roman Weidenfeller at the near post.
That was the first time Benayoun had managed to pose an attacking threat, while Arteta was kept shackled by Dortmund captain Sebastian Kehl for much of the first half.
But for all Dortmund's dominance and the struggles of Arsenal's new signings, it was captain Van Persie who made the most decisive action of the half.
The Dutchman won the ball from Kehl in midfield and surged forward. Theo Walcott met his run with a neat reverse pass and Van Persie fired past Weidenfeller with an emphatic finish.
As the second half wore on, Arsenal began to work their way back into the game. The lively Gervinho had an effort parried at point-blank range by Weidenfeller early in the first half, and the Ivorian was again denied in a similar situation on the hour mark.
Soon afterwards Perisic - a summer signing from Club Brugge - came on in place of Grosskreutz. The Croatian was soon making a nuisance of himself as Juergen Klopp's side began to mount a late siege on the Arsenal goal.
A corner for the hosts fell right at the feet of defender Neven Subotic on the edge of the six-yard box, but Szczesny smothered the Serb's hurried effort.
Goetze then made a waving run forward and played a one-two with Perisic, but the Germany starlet pulled his shot wide of the near post.
Just as the 1,300 travelling Arsenal fans were becoming convinced their team would leave with a smash-and-grab victory, Dortmund finally got the goal their performance so deserved.
A free-kick was headed clear but only as far as the edge of the box, and it dropped perfectly for Perisic to fire a swerving left-footed volley right into the far corner, giving Szczesny no chance. The goal meant Arsenal have still not kept a clean sheet away from home in Europe since they beat Milan 2-0 in March 2008, a run of 17 games.
The Polish goalkeeper was again called into action in injury time, spreading himself well to deny his compatriot Lewandowski, and Arsenal ended what is arguably their toughest Group F fixture with a point they would have taken before kick-off but will rue on their journey home.
Perisic's strike 'like a dream'