It proved to be a tricky UEFA Champions League start for Premier League powerhouse Arsenal in Paris against French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Arsenal players were given a tough ride by the French champions, who showed a worrying lack of character and focus as they failed to end a game against the Premier League side.
Not much has worked for Arsene Wenger’s men, but their persistence and perseverance paid off in the end as Gunners return to England with a huge point in the bag.
Having led Sevilla to three consecutive Europa League titles, Unai Emery moved to PSG during summer to take a try on the brightest European scene. Tasked with a challenge of filling the void left by striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Emery laid his faith in Uruguay striker Eidnson Cavani who started upfront alongside Di Maria and Matuidi.
Thiago Silva’s shook off his injury to start in the centre of defence, while the game against Arsenal came too early for Layvin Kurzawa. Hatem Ben Arfa was criticised for his attitude and was left out of the squad for the Arsenal clash. Serge Aurier’s return was a defensive boost for the hosts, who fielded an attack-oriented team against Gunners.
Arsene Wenger opted to rest Petr Cech and leave him on the bench for David Ospina, while Kieran Gibbs has recovered from injury and started the game on the bench. Arsenal have been boosted with the returns of Alexis Sanchez and team skipper Laurent Koscielny, who suffered a facial injury on Saturday.
The game in Paris came too early for Aaron Ramsey who remained sidelined with a thigh injury, while Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are long-term casualties.
Arsenal could not have feared the worse beginning of the game than the one that occurred on Wednesday in Paris.
It took hosts less than a minute – 42 seconds to be exact – to open the scoring and get their foot down on the clash against Arsenal, with Edinson Cavani stunning Arsene Wenger’s men after a beautiful cross into the box by Serge Aurier. The Uruguay international rose high to head the ball into the left side of the goal beyond Petr Cech replacement for the occasion, David Ospina.
The first ten minutes proved to be particularly hard for Arsenal who had to deal with intense pressure from the hosts.
Adrien Rabiot had a fine chance of scoring another early goal, but his dangerous shot on goal was thwarted in the last moment by a block from Arsenal defence. Ospina would have had plenty of problems containing the ball, hadn’t he been supported by his teammates.
Having been shocked straight from the start, Arsene Wenger’s men were made to work hard to get back in the game. Arsenal players attempted to gain footing, but Paris Saint-Germain player closed excellently in defence, putting great pressure on their own half.
At the same time, PSG were trying to keep the momentum going by pushing forward to Arsenal goal buoyed by fantastic support from the stands.
Edinson Cavani continued his brilliant display by getting in front of goal in a couple of more attempts towards the end of the first half, but the Uruguay international lacked the composure in crucial moments.
He sent the ball wide on the first occasion when getting one on one with Ospina and struggling to keep balance to fire a shot after beating an offside in the box in his second attempt.
Paris Saint-Germain opened the second term of the game by pulling deeper back allowing Arsenal to take control of the ball, knowing that it could leave more room for quick break on the counter.
Such an attack occurred after less than ten minutes inside the second half, when Di Maria broke behind Arsenal’s last line of defence to take a fall in the box instead of trying to endure the pressure from Arsenal defence, but no penalty was given from tonight’s referee Viktor Kassai as Di Maria’s effort was ruled offside.
PSG have been using every chance they got to break through and kill the game against Gunners.
With little more than 20 minutes left on the clock Angel Di Maria and Serge Aurier played a fantastic one-two, with heavily criticised right-back emerging one on one with Ospina for a terrific chance which was thwarted by excellent run from the goal line from Arsenal shot stopper.
Less than a minute later Les Bleus had another huge chance to double the lead, but Edinson Cavani ended up wasting yet another goal chance that was presented to him. Having collected the ball inside the box, Uruguay striker missed a sitter by sending the ball straight into the Arsenal keeper.
The pressure kept piling up from the hosts who were really eager to exploit Arsenal’s heavy feet, but David Ospina put in a Man of the Match display for the visiting team tonight as he pulled another great save to deny Angel Di Maria inside the box.
A much-needed break for Arsenal came in the 77th minute when Alexis Sanchez latched on a rebound from the edge of the box beating PSG goalkeeper, who was perhaps covered by a huge crowd inside the box. Arsenal managed to score a goal from their second shot on goal against PSG which gave them quite a boost towards the end of the game.
Plenty of action was seen in second half of the game with both PSG and Arsenal giving everything they get, with Edinson Cavani wasting yet another great chance for the hosts and Alex Iwobi misfiring a shot inside the box in what has been the final goal chance of the game.
A feisty end to the game in Paris was seen with both Verratti and Giroud being dismissed after a bust-up over a reckless start from the French striker.
In the end, Paris Saint-Germain will have been disappointed by failing to close a game they could have won on Wednesday night as they have been more a dominant side for much of the proceedings. Arsenal refused to lose their cool and have shown great character to get back in the game for a point.
- It took only 42 second for Edinson Cavani to score against Arsenal
- Gunners failed to register a single shot on goal in the first half
- Wenger’s team scored from their second shot on target against PSG
- Edinson Cavani was in serious lack of composure wasting 4 clear-cut chances
- Arsenal are now unbeaten in 13 away games against French opposition
PSG: Areola 6.5 – Aurier 7.5 (Meunier 6), Marquinhos 7.5, Silva 7.5, Maxwell 7 – Verratti 7, Krychowiak 7 (Pastore 6), Rabiot 6.5 (Motta 6.5) – Di Maria 7.5, Cavani 8, Matuidi 6.5.
Unused subs: Jese, Kimpembe, Lucas, Trapp
ARSENAL: Ospina 7.5 – Bellerin 6.5, Mustafi 7, Koscielny 7, Monreal 6.5 – Coquelin 6.5 (Xhaka 6), Cazorla 6.5 – Iwobi 6, Ozil 6 (Elneny 6), Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 (Giroud 5.5) – Sanchez 6.5
Unused subs: Cech, Gibbs, Holding, Perez
REFEREE: Viktor Kassai
Other results this evening
Barcelona 7-0 Celtic
Basel 1-1 Ludogorets
Bayern Munich 5-0 FK Rostov
Benfica 1-1 Besiktas
Dynamo Kyiv 1-2 Napoli
PSV 0-1 Atletico Madrid
Manchester City – Borussia Monchengladbach (postoponed)