Marseille vs. Arsenal: Final score 1-2, Gunners see off stubborn opponents

Jamie McDonald

Two second-half goals have seen Arsenal win 2-1 away in Marseille, as the Gunners start their Champions League group stage campaign with a win.

It took over an hour of football before Arsenal broke the deadlock, though the Gunners have seen off a stubborn Marseille team 2-1 at the Stade Vélodrome. The hosts were the better of the two teams for much of the match, though Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey netted twice in the second half to ensure Jordan Ayew's stoppage time penalty was nothing more than a consolation goal.

More from our team blogs: Arsenal blog The Short Fuse

Marseille had the first opportunity of the match inside the opening couple of minutes, when Jérémy Morel's cross from the left was flicked goalwards by André-Pierre Gignac, only for the ball to be comfortably caught by Wojciech Szczęsny. Arsenal responded with a chance of their own, with Aaron Ramsey picking out Theo Walcott's run in behind the Marseille left-back Morel. However, the winger's shot didn't challenge Steve Mandanda, who also made a comfortable save.

The hosts were in the ascendency for much of the first half, with Mathieu Valbuena looping a shot over the bar from outside the box before André Ayew's excellent header from inside the area went narrowly wide of Szczęsny's far post. Arsenal struggled under the impressive pressing from Élie Baup's team, and couldn't exert much control over possession.

Arguably the best opportunity of the first half came with just over five minutes remaining, after Gignac beat Ramsey to a corner before heading just wide. The big striker was causing problems, and almost met a great through ball from Giannelli Imbula inside the box on the stroke of the halftime whistle, though Szczęsny was off his line quickly to pluck the ball out of the air and ensure the game was goalless at the break.

Marseille picked up where they had left off, and almost  opened the scoring through full-back Rod Fanni a few minutes after the restart. Alaixys Romao's lay-off found the French international, though on the half-volley he fired narrowly wide of Szczęsny's goal. The Gunners replied with their best chance of the match a few minutes later, when Özil's backheel found the onrushing Kieran Gibbs in the area. His shot toward the top corner forced a great save from Mandanda, and the scores stayed level.

However, the tempo of the match suggested it wouldn't stay that way for much longer. Jack Wilshere had one of the best chances of the match from close range short of the hour, though Mandanda made an impressive save at his near post to deny the midfielder. The game had opened out completely, and Per Mertesacker almost looped the ball over Szczęsny and into his own goal seconds later, though a Gibbs' goalline clearance spared the German's blushes.

Finally the deadlock was broken 20 minutes into the second half, after a deep cross from the left was terribly dealt with by Morel. The full-back attempted to head the ball away, though scooped it back over himself and straight to a free Walcott at the far post. He caught the ball sweetly on the volley, and rocket the effort into the top corner from close range.

Marseille forced a couple of saves from Szczęsny from distance before Olivier Giroud and Özil both missed good chances to seal the points for the visitors. The Gunners did eventually ensure victory after Ramsey burst through the defense and rifled the ball into the bottom corner with five minutes of normal time remaining.

They didn't make life easy for themselves, conceding a penalty which was scored by Jordan Ayew in stoppage time, though they held on for a narrow victory. It wasn't a wholly convincing performance from Arsène Wenger's side, though they'll be delighted to already have three points on the board.

Marseille: Steve Mandanda; Jérémy Morel, Lucas Mendes, Nicolas N'Koulou, Rod Fanni; Alaixys Romao, Giannelli Imbula (Florian Thauvin 80'); André Ayew, Mathieu Valbuena (Saber Khalifa 90'), Dimitri Payet (Jordan Ayew 73'); André-Pierre Gignac

Goals: J. Ayew (pen 93')

Arsenal: Wojciech Szczęsny; Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Bacary SagnaMathieu Flamini (Ryo Miyaichi 91'), Jack Wilshere; Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil, Theo Walcott (Nacho Monreal 78'); Olivier Giroud

Goals: Walcott (65'), Ramsey (84')

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