Marseille 1 Arsenal 2: The Ramsey Inferno Keeps Raging
Stade Velodrome (Champions League)
Marseille – (J. Ayew 90+1′); Arsenal – (Walcott 64′, Ramsey 84′)
Following the huge success of some teams from the first set of Matchday 1 Champions League fixtures, the second set of games went underway in various stadia across Europe with Arsenal kicking off their campaign at the Stade Velodrome in the south of France. Despite the fact that Olympique Marseille had lost just two games in their home ground in 2013, the Gunners set their sights on a 10th consecutive away victory.
The mazy run began with the spirited away victory over eventual Champions League winners, Bayern Munich, in the Allainz Arena and it was followed up with a comfortable win over Swansea. Tomas Rosicky inspired a victory over West Brom and this was followed by narrow victories over Fulham, QPR and Newcastle. This season, wins over Fenerbahce, Fulham and Sunderland made it nine consecutive victories which was lauded as a landmark achievement but the Gunners weren’t taking any prisoners in France, as Arsene Wenger is also known for never losing a game in his homeland in the Champions League.
The starting XI was boosted with the return of Per Mertesacker while Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil were fit enough to keep their places in the team as well. The home side began the game better with Andre-Pierre Gignac flicking Rod Fanni’s cross goalwards but Wojciech Szczesny mopped up the danger. Shortly afterwards, Mathieu Vabuena the Hobbit lashed a long-range shot that was easy pickings for Szczesny.
Aaron Ramsey came into the game high on confidence following his two-goal salvo on Wearside and he sent Theo Walcott through with a neat pass but after some intense pressure from Morel, the Englishman’s shot didn’t threaten Steve Mandanda in goal. Ramsey teed Walcott after with another delicious pass but the offside flag spared Marseille’s blushes.
The home side almost got the lead when a surprisingly unmarked Andre Ayew sent his glancing header just wide off the mark. Mertesacker hit the deck after he was kicked in the face by a trailing boot but he recovered from that knock to make an important merteception when Dimitri Payet and Valbuena the Hobbit launched an incisive attack from the right.
The last action of a rather tame first half came when Szczesny bravely raced off his line to anticipate a ball heading towards Gignac. Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund’s Roman Weidenfeller dashed miles away from his box to anticipate the ball moved by Gonzalo Higuain but he handled the ball outside the box, earning himself an early bath.
With no substitutions at the start of the second 45 minutes, Marseille almost grabbed the lead when Fanni’s close-range drive missed Szczesny’s far post by a lick of paint. Ozil was trying to influence the game and he executed a brilliant back heeled pass to Kieran Gibbs but the goalie parried the fullback’s shot and smothered the ball on his second attempt. Morel swung a cross from the byline and Payet was the first to react and he fired a shot on the bounce that was saved by Szczesny.
Bacary Sagna didn’t send much crosses to support the attack but he managed to loft in a cross that was met with a first-timed tame volley from Jack Wilshere but Mandanda was on hand to parry the ball to safety. There was a moment of uncertainty from Arsenal when a communication error between Mertesacker and Szczesny almost resulted in an embarrassing own goal but both players had Gibbs to thank as he nodded the ball off the line with Gignac on the prowl.
Arsenal finally broke the deadlock when Wilshere sent Gibbs free and his cross into the box was headed to No Man’s Land by Morel. Up stepped Walcott to smash one of the sweetest volleys you’d ever see. It was so quick that it had already passed Mandanda before he could move his hands for a save.
Payet tried to level things up with another long-range effort but Szczesny made a rather unorthodox save. Walcott was replaced by Nacho Monreal but an awkward moment arrived when Ayew had initially handled the ball before wrestling Mathieu Flamini to the ground but the ref didn’t blow his whistle for an infringement. Ayew found Valbuena the Hobbit on his left but the midfielder’s effort hit the side netting.
Monreal showed great determination to win the ball in Marseille’s danger area before fashioning a chance for Ozil but the German forced his effort wide. With the game reaching its climax, the man on fire, Aaron Ramsey, received the ball on the edge of the box and closed in on goal before blasting a shot that went past Mandanda with the aid of a deflection off Nicolas N’ Koulou’s foot,
Arsene Wenger handed Ryo Miyaichi a Champions League debut late on when the young Jap replaced Flamini but Ramsey’s night of glory had a rather bitter twist when his carelessness in Arsenal’s box saw him concede when he tackled Andre Ayew after the Ghanaian nicked the ball off him. Ayew’s brother, Jordan, roofed his effort despite the fact that Szczesny guessed the right way.
Arsene Wenger was effusive of his praise for Ramsey in his post-conference tagging his Welsh Dragon as one of the most in-form midfielders in Europe at the moment. It’s really heartwarming to see how much Aaron Ramsey’s output has vastly improved in the final third as he has become surprisingly clinical with his finishing. This lad has matured so much, made him game simple, his hard work has seen excel above his peers and his sheer persistence has made him grow to an indispensable member of the team.
This Welsh Dragon is breathing fire at the moment and we can only hope that the Ramsey inferno will continue raging.
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