UEFA Champions League Group B wrap: Arsenal draw, Olympiacos close gap
By Football News
Arsenal let a two-goal lead slip at Schalke but still held on for a valuable 2-2 draw in Group B of the Champions League.
The Gunners took the lead with early on when Theo Walcott tapped into an empty net, before Oliver Giroud doubled their advantage in the 26th minute.
But a goal from Klass-Jan Huntelaar right on half-time halved the deficit and Jefferson Farfan levelled the scores midway through the second half.
Despite late pressure from the Schalke, Arsene Wenger's side stayed strong to secure a vital point to stay second in their group.
The hosts started strongly, with Afellay Farfan testing Vito Mannone with a low shot that the keeper palmed away, before Benedikt Howedes came close with a header from a corner, but his effort drifted onto the top of the net.
And somewhat against the run of play, the visitors took the lead through Walcott, a man who has stated his preference for playing through the middle this season.
Giroud was sent through by a suicidal header from Roman Neustadter, but as he elected to try and chip Lars Unnerstall, he kicked the turf. But as Howedes made a last-ditch challenge, Walcott charged in to round the keeper via a deflection and tap the ball into the empty net.
The Gunners extended their lead just eight minutes later with Giroud nodding home his first Champions League goal after some fine work from Lukas Podolski.
After a good move involving Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Giroud, the ball found its way to Podolski on the left wing. The striker slipped, but his recovery was so quick that it surprised the defence, as he turned and swung in a great cross for the unmarked Frenchman to score.
Huntelaar fired Schalke back into the game in first-half stoppage time with an unnerving finish into the bottom corner after some nice work from the midfield, with Lewis Holtby's assist a fine pass.
Giroud could have added another shortly after the break, but volleyed over from another Podolski cross, while Huntelaar missed a sitter at the other end, with Mannone saving well.
A controversial moment came on the hour mark as Podolski looked to be through on goal, but play was brought back with Marco Hoger down injured. The striker vented his frustrations and was booked for dissent.
The hosts were level in the 67th minute though, as a cross in from the left that Holtby couldn't direct goalwards was pounced on by Farfan, with his shot deflected in by Thomas Vermaelen.
Schalke generally dominated the rest of the game, but looked susceptible to Arsenal's counterattack, and while Walcott had a very late effort saved, neither side could claim all three points in an enthralling encounter.
The result sees Schalke maintain top spot in the group on eight points, with Arsenal just a point behind.
Meanwhile, Olympiacos closed to within a point of Arsenal with a vital 3-1 win at home to Montpellier, which virtually ends the French side's chances of qualifying.
Portuguese midfielder Paulo Machado gave the hosts the lead early on when he found the net from close range, but Younes Belhanda restored parity halfway through the second half with a penalty.
Leandro Greco and Kostas Mitroglou then added their names to the score sheet in the final 10 minutes of the game to help the hosts to victory.