Hot Ospina frustrates PSG as the Arsenal survive to nick draw
PSG 1-1 Arsenal
Arsene Wenger will be the first to admit that he got some key decisions wrong in the 1-1 draw against Paris Saint-Germain last night, but the Frenchman's most surprising call proved to be his best.
Shock selection David Ospina, brought in at the expense of Petr Cech, produced an heroic performance in goal, making the saves that kept the Gunners within touching distance.
Arsenal were outplayed by PSG for the whole game at the Parc des Princes, as Wenger left Olivier Giroud and Granit Xhaka on the bench.
They should have lost by a distance, after Edinson Cavani put PSG ahead as early as the first minute. But Ospina kept the score at 1-0, repeatedly preventing the Uruguayan from extending the advantage.
Alexis Sanchez equalised with the London club's first real chance in the 77th minute, and suddenly the Gunners' start to their Champions League campaign looked far more respectable. An away draw in their hardest game is a good result, even if they had an anxious time along the way.
All of Wenger's plans, and much of his hopes for an easier European season, dissolved after just 43 seconds. That was how long it took for PSG to take the lead, a desperately important goal for a team still searching for confidence and the trust of their fans.
Arsenal had to be switched on from the start but they were still dozing as PSG won the ball early and played it out to the right.
Unai Emery wants his full-backs to push up aggressively, and Serge Aurier did just that as he bounded forward with possession. Nacho Monreal did not switch on in time to stop the cross and Shkodran Mustafi, rooted at the front post, stood and watched as Cavani (right) got the run on him and glanced his header into the net.
That was the goal that PSG needed and it transformed the atmosphere. These players are still deciding what they make of Emery but they were playing for him here.
They put together one move that, had it not been for Laurent Koscielny's tackle on Adrien Rabiot, would surely have been goal of the season, featuring back-heels from Angel di Maria and Rabiot himself.
This was Arsenal's chance to assert themselves on Group A but they spent too much of the first half just clinging on. Even when Francis Coquelin got stuck into the midfield battle, the Gunners were still up against a PSG side with the quality to hurt them.
Cavani looked buoyed by his early goal, but not enough to score another before the break. He took advantage of confusion between Koscielny and Ospina, touching the ball past the Colombian keeper, but lost his balance.
Then, just before the interval, he ran onto Di Maria's pass but lost his footing while trying to untangle his legs.
Despite everything, Wenger made no changes at the interval. His starting XI had to try to solve the same problems all over again. But Rabiot, Marco Verratti and Gerzegorz Krychowiak were still too strong for Cazorla and Coquelin in midfield and former Manchester United man Di Maria and Cavani were still too fast on the break.
PSG might have had a penalty when Di Maria went down in the vicinity of Mustafi in the box, but the hosts were more than happy to sit and wait, controlling the tempo of the game.
It took 17 minutes of the second half for Wenger to bring on Giroud, for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, after an underwhelming hour from the young midfielder.
Giroud gave Arsenal a focal point, but could not fix their absent midfield. Ospina had to save from Aurier and Cavani before Wenger brought on Xhaka. Ospina was soon forced into another save, his leaping reflex denying Di Maria on the volley.
That should have been 6-0, but thankfully for the Gunners, it was not. And within a few minutes PSG paid for their profligacy as Arsenal scored an equaliser.
Mesut Ozil found Alex Iwobi, whose shot was parried by Alphonse Areola, his first real save of the game. The ball then kindly fell to Sanchez, who gleefully slapped into the net. He was the hero, but not as much as Ospina, who bravely denied Cavani again.
PSG continued to push for the winner, but their frustration boiled over as Verratti and Giroud clashed off the ball in added time, which resulted in second bookings for both. An ugly end to a messy match, but Arsenal will be less upset.