Schalke 04 vs. Arsenal: Final score 2-2, Gunners blow early lead

Christof Koepsel

It was a night that started perfectly for Arsenal but ended in vague disappointment. A draw in Germany would maintain the status quo in Group B, which saw Schalke ahead of Arsenal by a point after their surprise win at the Emirates Stadium in October, but said draw did not look on the cards after the Gunners ran rampant in the first half hour and opened up a two goal lead. However, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar pulled one back right at the end of the first half, and Jefferson Farfan's equaliser seemed more or less inevitable there.

The Gunners took their early lead thanks to a shocking piece of defending. Per Mertesacker launched a hopeful punt forward that should have been absolutely no problem for Schalke's back line to clear up. Instead, Roman Neustadter got under the ball, which skipped off the top of his head and right into the path of Olivier Giroud. The striker would have been offside had the defender not got the final touch, but thanks to Neustadter's intervention found himself free on goal.

Benedict Howedes managed to rob Giroud with a majestic last-ditch tackle, which should have ended the threat, but unfortunately the ball bounced straight to Theo Walcott, lurking with intent on the right side of the box. Walcott promptly kicked the ball straight at Lars Unnerstall, but managed to latch onto the rebound, dance around the prone keeper, and slot home to make it 1-0 Arsenal.

Their second came in slightly less messy fashion. Jack Wilshere's run into the box was picked out by Santi Cazorla, and the ball was eventually fed wide to Lukas Podolski. With Schalke's defence falling asleep in the centre, the winger slung in a cross for Giroud to convert at the near post with a powerful flying header. Unnerstall was just as helpless to stop that goal as he was the first. After just 26 minutes, Arsenal's points seemed secure.

They were not. Schalke's defending might have been shambolic, but their attack was still potent, and they threatened Vito Mannone's net semi-regularly throughout the half before halving the deficit just before the interval. Cazorla gave the ball away in midfield, and a clever knockdown from Lewis Holtby found Huntelaar in space at the edge of the box, played onside by Laurent Koscielny. The Dutch hitman's shot was perfect, tucking itself just inside the far post to give the hosts some momentum going into halftime.

Huntelaar should have put Schalke back on level terms shortly thereafter. Jermaine Jones picked him out with a long ball over the top, and although the striker looked marginally offside, the flag stayed down and he was free on goal. This time, however, Mannone was up to the challenge, refusing to commit until the shot and smothering the low effort.

Arsenal were under the cosh, however, and it came as no surprise when the equaliser finally did arrive. A cross was deflected into the path of Farfan on the right of the area. The Peruvian had plenty of space ahead of him, driving towards goal before unleashing a rocket towards the back post. It didn't get there, because Thomas Vermaelen, attempting a clearance, stuck out a knee and deflected it in at the near.

After 67 minutes, the score was 2-2. Walcott nearly gave the travelling fans something to cheer about once more when he broke through the lines and shot, but his effort bounced off the base of Unnerstall's left post and the linesman's flag was raised regardless.

By this point, both sides were seemingly content with the scoreline, and the game's urgency was more or less entirely extinguished save from a blown chance from Walcott right at the death. A draw was fine for both teams, who remain in the qualifying places in Group B. Arsenal's trip to Olympiacos is now key for ensuring that they do actually qualify.

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