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Arsenal 2-1 Montpellier HSC: Match Report

Julian Finney - Getty Images

0-1 Belhanda 9' (pen)
1-1 Podolski 16'
2-1 Gervinho 18'

Despite Montpellier going one-nil up through a controversial penalty, and throwing everything at Arsenal in the second half, Steve Bould's Arsene Wenger's side hung on for a vital away win in their first Champions League match in Group B. It was not a vintage performance, as Arsenal's away games in the Champions League tend to be, but they got the job done.

Arsenal's passing was oddly lethargic in the first half, save for a flurry of activity in the ten minutes after Montpellier scored, and they had problems holding onto the ball in second half. Despite that, they started the better team, and the awarding of a penalty to Montpellier, after Thomas Vermaelen slightly clipped Younes Belhanda, was largely against the run of play. Belhanda's penalty, a cheap Andrea Pirlo impression, was not very good, and Vito Mannone nearly clawed the ball out after he'd already been sent to the floor.

Arsenal, though, responded. A neat 19 pass move that started with Mikel Arteta's no-nonsense tackle on Younes Belhanda, ended with a passing move of Diaby-Cazorla-Giroud and Podolski, with the German sliding the ball past Jourdren, Montpellier's keeper. Moments later, it was 2-1; Carl Jenkinson's fine near post low-cross was forced home by Gervinho, who made it three goals in a week, with two coming from a combined length of 4 yards.

Although Olivier Giroud didn't score, he was involved in both of Arsenal's goals. His sumptuous lay-off played Podolski in, and he returned the ball into space down the right for Carl Jenkinson before he crossed for Gervinho. Giroud only had one chance, a difficult one that he nearly pulled off with aplomb, but his flick from Kieran Gibbs' cross went just wide. But aside from one barnstorming run from Abou Diaby and an ensuing pass to Santi Cazorla and shot, that was all of Arsenal's attack. For the rest of the first half, they comfortably held possession, with 58%; in the second half, Arsenal only had 41% of the ball, as Montpellier incessantly attacked.

Montpellier had three glorious chances to level the game up; the first one came minutes after the second half started, with Remy Cabella stripping Abou Diaby in Arsenal's penalty box as the Frenchman tried to dribble his way out of trouble. Cabella, though, slashed at the ball, and his shot went well over. He had a second opportunity to level things up; taking the ball on the counter attack, he went up against Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen, and tried to chip Vito Mannone in goal. His shot beat Mannone, but it didn't beat the crossbar.

The third chance Montpellier, had, though, was their best; there was too much space between Arsenal's midfield and defence, particularly down the left hand side, which Montpellier exploited, before working the ball back for Younes Belhanda. He stepped away from Per Mertesacker's diving challenge, but, from 8 yards out, shot straight at Vito Mannone, who held on with what appeared to be his right armpit. After that, the wind seemed to go out of Montpellier's sails, and Steve Bould finally freshened things up, bringing on Francis Coquelin and Theo Walcott for Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski, and Arsenal held on for three points.