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mercoledì 24 ottobre 2012

First defeat in Champions League group: Arsenal fan frustrated (0-2)

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay scored in the final 14 minutes as FC Schalke 04 became the first foreign visitors to win at the Arsenal Stadium, climbing above Arsenal FC and to the top of UEFA Champions League Group B. The home side had won their first two games in this season's competition and were unbeaten in 16 European matches in north London; indeed, the last time they had lost to non-English opposition at home was September 2003. Schalke, however, produced a vibrant display that finally got its reward when Huntelaar fired in with 14 minutes left. Ten minutes later Afellay tapped in a clinching second to give the German club a first victory in England at the sixth attempt.

Steve Bould, standing in for the last game of Arsène Wenger's touchline ban, offered the verdict that the players were "jaded" and had been that way since they returned from the international break. Certainly, three defeats in their last five games in all competitions is the kind of form that is developing from a blip into something more serious. They were bossed for most of the game by Schalke, the Bundesliga's third-placed club last season and an expansive, energetic side in the mould of Arsenal in the good old days. From Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's confident finish for the first goal to the running of Jefferson Farfan and Lewis Holtby this was a brave performance from the visitors. The Schalke coach, Huub Stevens, said his team had not performed in the first half, although that seemed like an unnecessarily harsh verdict on a side that looked well in control. It was telling that Bould admitted that as the game progressed his side would have been "delighted" with a 0-0 draw.


Schalke pressed Arsenal very high up the pitch, no-one more so than Holtby, the Germany international with the English father, Chris. In midfield, Roman Neustädter worked just in front of the back four and completed more passes, 51, than any of his team-mates. Schalke thought they had a penalty on 14 minutes when Vito Mannone lunged at the feet of Afellay but the Dutch winger was booked for diving. Afellay went down a fraction too early for contact although if he had stayed on his feet another stride, the Arsenal goalkeeper would surely have brought him down. There was a chance for Ramsey at the start of the second half, albeit not much of one. It was indicative of how little Arsenal were creating in front of goal that this moment stood out. Down Arsenal's left-side, Andre Santos was having trouble controlling Farfan and the raiding Japanese right-back Atsuto Uchida. On 50 minutes, Farfan left Santos in his slipstream to cut the ball back to Benedikt Höwedes who cleared the bar with his shot. The warning signs were there.

Schalke’s victory lifted them to the top of Group B on seven points, one above Arsenal, at the halfway stage. Then there is a gap to Olympiacos who have three points after beating Montpellier late on in France this eveing. Despite the disappointment this evening, the margins are still slender and Arsène Wenger’s side have the chance for immediate revenge when they travel to Gelsenkirchen on Matchday Four. With the Frenchman sitting out the final game of his touchline ban, Steve Bould’s side showed only one alteration from the one beaten at Norwich on Saturday – Francis Coquelin for Olivier Giroud – but there were positional changes. Gervinho went up front and Aaron Ramsey moved to the right of midfield. The central role was filled by Coquelin. We've lost at home and of course they're frustrated. We are as well,' Bould said. 'We don't like losing football games, but we have to pick ourselves up and start again. 'We haven't played anything like we can - that was the big disappointment. 'We haven't performed and we lacked confidence, for whatever reason. 'It's a tough competition and Schalke are a good side who beat Dortmund at the weekend.

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