Arsenal were fortunate to come away with a 2-1 victory over Montpellier in their opening Champions League Group B fixture.
Two goals in two first half minutes from Lukas Podolski and Gervinho sealed the win after the Ligue 1 champions had taken an early lead through Younes Belhanda’s cheeky penalty kick – but the Gunners have poor finishing from the home side to thank for getting through a poor second half performance unscathed.
Arsene Wenger had to put his trust in assistant Steve Bould, as the Frenchman was serving the first of a three-game UEFA ban and was forced to watch from the stands of the Stade de la Mosson.
Olivier Giroud came in to play up front against his former side, but the pressure will continue to mount on him as another game went by without a goal, despite him playing a major role in the equalising goal.
It was a terrible start for the Gunners as they went behind for the first time this season thanks to a poor piece of defending by Thomas Vermaelen.
The new captain went in clumsily on exciting playmaker Younes Belhanda after just nine minutes and the Moroccan despatched the spot kick confidently with a dink down the middle.
This is a new, resilient Arsena though, and they did not need to wait long before drawing level; barely over five minutes, in fact.
Intricate play in front of the Montpellier box by Santi Cazorla found Giroud with his back to goal and the big striker’s first time flick put Podolski in one-on-one with ‘keeper Geoffrey Jourdren – the German finished clinically.
It was barely over a minute later when Arsene Wenger saw his side take the lead; a challenge on Giroud fell to Carl Jenkinson on the right a hand side and the young full-back fired in a perfect low cross to give in-form Gervinho his third goal in as many games.
Arsenal looked dangerous on the break in an increasingly frantic game as the home side looked for the equaliser. Montpellier turned up the heat in the second half and the Londoners’ defence began to look increasingly ragged as the game wore on.
Marco Estrada should have levelled the match soon after half time when he robbed the dallying Abou Diaby inside the Gunners’ area, but his shot was high and wide.
Belhanda, though, missed the biggest opportunity to get his side back into the game with ten minutes to go when a shot deflected to the forward six yards out and just Vito Mannone to beat, but he rushed his shot and fired straight into the arms of the stand-in ‘keeper.
It was the last real sight of goal for Montpellier who will be cursing their poor finishing in a second half where they had the Premier League side on the ropes.
Arsenal will be relieved to get out of the Stade de la Mosson with three points on a night where they could easily have got nothing.
It was another example of the renewed resilience and mental toughness that Wenger and Steve Bould are instilling into the side – a good start for the Gunners in a group they will now be looking to win.