Marseille 0-1 Arsenal: Late Ramsey goal seals win for Gunners
Published 20:37 19/10/11 By John Cross
The Stade Velodrome used to be a dirty place for Arsene Wenger.
But last night the Arsenal boss enjoyed a degree of closure as his side cleaned up in Marseille with a glorious late victory.
It does not get any more dramatic or last gasp than supersub Aaron Ramsey’s stoppage-time winner and Wenger will cherish this night for many reasons.
Every win over Marseille must be sweet for a manager who felt he was denied at least two titles while at Monaco because of the bribery scandal during disgraced former president Bernard Tapie’s reign. But Wenger will be happy just to concentrate on a victory which may just prove a turning point for his season.
Arsenal have rarely looked convincing in defence this season and certainly not capable of keeping clean sheets.
Yet as this game wore on, Arsenal became more resolute, confident and determined to get a positive result.
As even Wenger acknowledged, it was not a classic performance as Arsenal rode their luck.
But never mind the good fortune, feel the victory.
Marseille are not the force in Europe they once were. And the Stade Velodrome is not the stadium it once was, one stand shut down as it is renovated for Euro 2016 and the capacity reduced by 20,000. But the Marseille fans are still the most passionate in France and Arsenal did well to silence them.
There were a few scares in defence but Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny did not have a meaningful save to make.
After the 8-2 mauling at Old Trafford and other beatings, that must be something of a relief.
And after being victims of a late equaliser in Dortmund, Arsenal were beneficiaries this time because of their sheer never-say-die attitude.
They refused to buckle and even though they looked dodgy in the first half, they grew after the break.
Arsenal survived two handball appeals. The first when Carl Jenkinson appeared to handle Jeremy Morel’s cross and Marseille boss Didier Deschamps went mad at the officials.
Wenger then berated the officials for booking Andre Santos after a barge on Mathieu Valbuena. But Wenger will feel fortunate that Santos was not yellow carded again for a needless handball just before the break.
Arsenal went close in the 22nd minute when Mikel Arteta’s corner appeared to be handled by Souleymane Diawara, Robin van Persie’s looping header was goal-bound too until Alou Diarra headed off the line.
But Marseille began to take charge in the latter part of the half and it took some desperate defending to keep them out.
Laurent Koscielny stood out, the French centre half always looking in control and somehow blocking chances and tackles.
But Marseille built a head of steam and Loic Remy turned Per Mertesacker, beat Jenkinson only for the young right-back to recover enough to deflect the ball wide.
The pressure grew more intense and in the 35th minute France midfielder Valbuena whipped in a low cross for Lucho Gonzalez but he could not get the all-important touch.
Arsenal did not create many openings for the hard-working Van Persie, but they stayed resolute in defence.
Marseille threatened, Arsenal stood firm. Meanwhile, Jenkinson limped off with a knee injury and Johan Djourou came on, followed by Gervinho and Ramsey.
Arsenal grew more threatening on the break and Theo Walcott went desperately close.
The England winger’s moment came in the 64th minute after turning defender Nicolas N’Koulou but his shot was blocked by keeper Steve Mandana.
Van Persie went close and suddenly Arsenal were pressing and all three substitutes combined in stoppage time to put a big smile on Wenger’s face.
Djourou, playing as a makeshift right back, sent in a cross, Gervinho could not control the ball but flicked it on and Ramsey had time and space at the back post.
The Welshman picked his spot and drilled low into the far corner before racing off to celebrate with the travelling fans.
It was a night to remember.
Marseille: Mandana 6; Azpilicueta 6, Diawara 7, N'Koulou 6, Morel 6; Lucho Gonzalez 6, Diarra 6, Cheyrou 6; Valbuena 7, Ayew 7, Remy 7 (Gignac, 69, 6).
Arsenal: Szczesny 7; Jenkinson 7 (Djourou, 60, 6), Mertesacker 7, Koscielny 8, Santos 6; Song 7, Arteta 7, Rosicky 7; Walcott 6 (Gervinho, 67, 6) Arshavin 6 (Ramsey, 77, 7), van Persie 7.
Man of the match: Laurent Koscielny Good performance from the French centre half in face of constant pressure.
Villain of the match: Andre Santos Lucky not to be sent off as he committed a senseless handball.