It wasn't easy, but Arsenal continued their perfect record in this year's edition of the Champions League with a 3-1 home victory over Olympiacos, recovering from Kostas Mitroglou's equaliser with goals from Lukas Podolski and Aaron Ramsey in the second half.
As one might have expected, the hosts began the game in the ascendancy. Arsenal were dominating possession without creating many clear-cut chances, and the entirety of the game was being played deep in Olympiacos' half. There was also an onslaught of elbows -- both Giannis Maniatis and Leandro Greco took rather hefty blows to the side of the head in the opening stages.
And then Arsenal started getting sloppy. A stupid error by Laurent Koscielny -- this is becoming a trend -- cost the French defender a booking. The visitors started to get their chances, and Vito Manonne was called into action from a decent ranged effort by Kostas Mitroglou. Then Maniatis blazed just over the bar following a mixup on a cross. The Greeks weren't just coming into the game: They were beginning to boss it.
Naturally, the Gunners picked that moment to score. There was some confusion at the top of the box when Mikel Arteta and Gervinho tried to leave the ball to each other, but eventually the Ivorian picked it up, cut outside and shot through a thicket of Olympiacos legs. Balázs Megyeri, at full stretch, couldn't do much more than help the ball into the back of the net.
But they were still playing lackadaisically, and were made to pay in short order. Arsenal's defence didn't show any particular inclination to close down Greco on the Olympiacos left, and the midfielder took advantage by swinging in an inch-perfect cross onto the head of Mitroglou. He had plenty of work left to do, of course, but his glancing header into the side of the net made it all look easy.
That equaliser came at the stroke of half time and would have left Arsene Wenger fuming. His side certainly played with significantly more intent when they came back out, with Gervinho in particular in inspired form. The much-maligned striker managed to repeatedly get behind the visitor's back line, and while Santi Cazorla wasted one chance when he shot just wide of Megyeri's goal, Arsenal wouldn't take long in regaining the lead.
Olympiacos will rue the lucky bounce that led to Podolski's goal. Gervinho's initial cross was blocked and the ricochet ended up going straight back it him, allowing for a simple pass to the now-unmarked number nine. Podolski took a touch and then drove the ball straight through Megyeri's legs to make it 2-1.
With a second half lead, Arsenal could sit back and look to hit their guests on the counterattack, and that's more or less what they did. Granted, it wasn't particularly pretty, but the Gunners held out well and there weren't too many nervy moments despite Olympiacos hurling bodies forward. Substitute Olivier Giroud nearly made things even more comfortable in the 80th minute, but ended up redirecting Theo Walcott's cross straight at the goalkeeper.
Arsenal did manage to wrap up the win, however, with a classy chipped finish from Aaron Ramsey making it 3-1 and clinching the three points. With Schalke and Montpellier playing it out to an unlikely equaliser, it looks as through Group B belongs to London. At least for now.