1 - 0 Robin van Persie 49'
2 - 0 Robin van Persie 86'
2 - 1 Shinji Kagawa 92'
Arsenal defeated BvB Dortmund in today's Champions League group F match by a final of 2-1, and coupled with Olympiakos' win away at Marseille, they have won Group F outright, becoming the first English side to qualify for the knockout rounds this year. Two goals from Robin van Persie, along with some wonderful play from man of the match Alex Song, were enough to overcome a late Kagawa equalizer (which came from some horribly sloppy, lax play from Arsenal). This leaves the Gunners free to give some young players and reserves experience in the last match of the group against Olympiakos.
The Germans would be the first to generate some threat, Mario Goetze nearly playing Lewandowski through, Szczesny able to smother less than a minute into the game. Dortmund were pulling Arsenal's shape apart a little with their top-shelf pressing, but that didn't stop Andre Santos from making his way through the middle and nearly springing Robin van Persie, whose tame shot went well wide. Dortmund pressed well again, Song lost the ball, and Shinji Kagawa took a shot from 20 yards that was easily saved.
Arsenal were having trouble generating solid chances, but 12 minutes in, Santos floated a good diagonal cross to van Persie, whose soft header was easily saved at the far post. It was a chance he perhaps could have done more with. BvB were still pressing very well; even if Arsenal could weave their way through the first layer, by the time the ball got to van Persie or Theo Walcott, they had precisely 0.01 seconds to do something. To their credit, though, Arsenal were able to generate some threat, and looked good value for their pressing as well.
The game was pretty evenly matched; 23 minutes in, though, BvB took a blow as Thomas Vermaelen and Sven Bender came together in a challenge, the latter coming out of it much worse for wear. Sadly, the German had to be stretchered off, replaced by Moritz Leitner. Dortmund would nearly score a couple of minutes after play resumed following the injury, but they were about to undergo another blow to their hopes. Mario Goetze, their key playmaker and attacking wunderkind, had sustained an injury early in the match in a 50/50 with Santos, and he wasn't able to recover. BvB manager Jurgen Klopp elected to play it safe, and 28 minutes in, Ivan Perisic took Goetze's place. It remained to be seen whether Arsenal would take advantage.
Ten minutes later, they still hadn't, but there were some signs that the home side had stabilized their play a bit. Gervinho, in particular, was tracking back well, preventing Dortmund's flicks from setting their wing play free, and in general, Dortmund looked (slightly) less threatening. Arsenal, though, still had not really found a way to breach the BvB wall, particularly at the back, where Walcott tried unsuccessfully to work his way through on the left. BvB were still mounting good attacks occasionally, though, captain Sebastien Kehl finding a lot of space to shoot from distance, but only managing to find row Z.
Arsenal were finding no joy attacking up the sides, but in the middle, they were able to penetrate the bulwarks a little more. van Persie looked to have set Walcott through 40 minutes in, but the Englishman was just barely offside. Overall, though, a combination of lack of central invention and some poor touches were holding the Gunners back. Marcel Schmeltzer shot at Szczesny, who saved easily, and then immediately Arsenal attacked up the right, Walcott's cross palmed away from van Persie at the last moment by Roman Weidenfeller. BvB came flying up the other end, Perisic's cross smothered brilliantly by an Alex Song tackle.
The half came to a close without a single shot on target from Arsenal, although they did have some decent chances. Dortmund, on the other hand, had some shots on target, but Szczesny and the Arsenal defense had managed to limit the quality reasonably well.
Neither side made changes at the half.
As the second half started, BvB nearly found good fortune from a deflected cross, but Per Mertesacker was able to clear behind for a corner, which was cleared easily by Arsenal. Bvb found their way through again, another 1-2 cutting through the Arsenal defense, but Szczesny was able to smother Kagawa's sharp-angle shot. Still, it was worrying that Dortmund were able to cut through as easily as they did.
It wouldn't matter three minutes later.
Gervinho cut in from the left, looking for a way through, and passed to Aaron Ramsey. He was held off, and laid the ball back to Alex Song at the halfway line. A move that seemed to have gone nowhere, though, suddenly did. Song simply dribbled up the left, around the Dortmund midfield, and then, faced with two players in the corner, just went...through them. Suddenly free in the area, he floated a scrumptious bit of cross toward the far post, right onto van Persie (who else?), who headed it home past a despairing Weidenfeller. 1-0 to the Arsenal, and game very much on.
Marcel Schmelzer decided to screw with Ramsey a bit later, and then after fouling Gervinho, the referee said that was enough and gave him a yellow. The crowd was very much up for it now, and the game looked ready to burst open.
Arsenal were in the ascendant. Schmelzer earned a yellow for being bratty, and Arsenal looked to press their advantage. Gervinho went through on goal ten minutes later, all alone, but just like Saturday versus Norwich, he rounded the keeper but couldn't bury it. He simply wanted too much time; his finishing is blunted at the moment. Still, Arsenal kept attacking, Walcott in particular doing work on the right.
Sensing, perhaps, that they were in danger of losing their grip, BvB brought on Paraguayan forward Lucas Barrios in place of defender Sebastien Kehl. The change in shape brought immediate hope, Dortmund winning a free kick which deflected out for a corner off the wall. The corner came to nothing, though, as Dortmund shoved a bit too much, much to the disbelief of Herr Klopp. BvB kept working, though, Kevin Grosskreutz moving in on goal only for Alex Song to nip the ball away and launch a counter from which Walcott shot wide. One wondered if Arsenal needed to make one more chance pay in order to feel safe, though, as Der BvB were now coming forward with purpose.
Arsenal were able to weather the storm, though, for the next ten minutes. Wenger brought on Yossi Benayoun for Gervinho, looking to add a little solidity perhaps, and was rewarded with a yellow card for the Israeli. Arsenal continued to press their ascendancy, Arteta lashing a free kick off the wall that resulted in a corner.
Abou Diaby came on for Theo Walcott. That is all.
From the corner, Arsenal would put the game to bed. Arteta swung it in, Thomas Vermaelen flicked it at the near post, and Robin van Persie (WHO THE GAT-DANGED ELSE, MAN) was at the far post to tap it in. 2-0, Aresnal qualifying and winning the group outright as Olympiakos took the lead aganist Marseille. All they had to do was hold on.
It would be interesting. Late on in the action, Dortmund broke through into Arsenal's area from the left, and a cross for Grosskreutz squirted out to Kagawa 12 yards from goal. He buried it, 2-1, a stupid goal to concede, probably from lack of concentration more than anything. Szczesny, rightly, was upset. Arsenal would hold on, though, to take the three points.
WIth the victory, and Olympiakos' win in Marseille, Arsenal won the group outright. All three sides below them can still technically go through, which is amazing, but Arsenal will be in the top pot for the knockout rounds. There is also a small chance that Arsenal could be the only English club to go through. So, you know:
CLUB IN CRISIS.