Ramsey rustles up late night treat as Arsenal edge Marseille
Marseille 0 Arsenal 1: A moment of class from Aaron Ramsey moved Arsenal into a strong position in Champions League Group F last night.
The young Welshman slotted home in the 93rd minute to earn an unlikely victory on the Cote D’Azur.
It was the first goal Marseille had conceded at home in nine hours of Champions League football, a surprising fact given their own performance.
Both teams looked what they are, struggling domestically for form and confidence.
Robin van Persie had a header cleared off the line in the first half, and drew a good save from Steve Mandanda in the last minute of normal time, but otherwise Arsenal threatened little.
Nevertheless, with Borussia Dortmund losing in Greece the Gunners are now in control of the group, a point clear of Marseille and four ahead of Olympiakos who do not travel well but have two away games to come.
The one bit of bad news for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was yet another injury, this time to Carl Jenkinson who was forced out of the match — his first-choice right-back Bacary Sagna is already out for some time.
Stade Velodrome is one of Europe’s most evocative stadiums but it is at the start of a renovation programme ahead of Euro 2016 and one side was empty bar the contingent of around 1,500 Arsenal fans tucked into a corner.
Nevertheless, the two ends made plenty of noise and Arsenal were looking to silence them with a strong start.
Wenger had made two changes, one enforced, from the XI which managed a nervy win over Sunderland at the weekend.
Andre Santos came in for the injured Kieran Gibbs and Andrei Arshavin, who impressed off the bench on Sunday, earned a place at the expense of Gervinho.
It was Marseille, however, who made the early running. Loic Remy was quick to menace Arsenal’s porous back four and Alex Song was cautioned after three minutes for bringing him down.
Wojciech Szczesny dealt easily with Mathieu Valbuena’s free-kick.
The pressure continued and Andre Ayew was booked for dissent after demanding a penalty when a cross struck Jenkinson’s arm. The Slovenian official soon had a third name in the book after Santos checked Valbuena.
It was midway through the half before Arsenal finally exerted some sustained pressure on their hosts with a burst of corners.
From one, Robin van Persie sent a header goalwards only for Souleymane Diawara to clear off the line.
That proved a brief sortie from Arsenal and Marseille pressed again with Remy skipping past Per Mertesacker rather too easily after 31 minutes. He went by Jenkinson as well but the rookie recovered to deflect Remy’s shot wide.
Remy was a constant threat but Laurent Koscielny produced a timely tackle to thwart his next break and with Lucho Gonzalez shooting wide when well-placed Arsenal reached the interval without their defence being breached.
Early in the second period Diawara’s weaknesses were more apparent as he dragged down Arshavin and was cautioned.
Marseille did threaten a goal as the hour approached when Valbuena brought down a cross on the edge of the six-yard box but Song scrapped hard to prevent Ayew managing a shot.
Soon afterwards Arsenal were forced to make a change as Jenkinson limped off, Johan Djourou replacing him.
With neither side able to penetrate, both managers made changes, in Wenger’s case that meant introducing Gervinho, then Ramsey, for Walcott and Arshavin.
The game appeared to be meandering to a dull close when Arsenal launched a late assault.
Gervinho slipped in Van Persie for a shot which Mandanda did well to keep out at the near post.
It looked as if that would be the final note of the match, then Djourou, deep and wide on the right, sent over a cross that eluded a bundle of players in the middle save Gervinho who got a touch.
The ball ran to Ramsey, coming in late completely unnoticed by the French defence, and he steadied himself and tucked the ball away superbly.
The result means Arsenal remain unbeaten in nine away European matches on French soil.
Results are what matters and they have made excellent progress on that front.