Arsenal beats Olympiakos 3-1 in Champions League
(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
By ROB HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) Arsenal maintained its perfect start to the Champions League on Wednesday, with Gervinho, Lukas Podolski and Aaron Ramsey scoring in a 3-1 victory over Olympiakos.
Gervinho's 43rd minute-opener was quickly canceled out as Kostas Mitroglou headed the Greek champions level before halftime, but Arsenal was back in control after the break to ensure it stayed top of Group B.
Gervinho turned provider in the 56th, picking out Podolski in the penalty area and the German striker's shot went straight through the legs of goalkeeper Balazs Megyeri into the net.
Ramsey made sure of the victory in stoppage time.
"The second half was better, in the first half we were sloppy sometimes with the passing, we lost a lot of ball," Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen said. "We started well but the first half was not great."
While Olympiakos is yet to earn a point at the bottom of Group B, Arsenal has a maximum six points after beating Montpellier 2-1 two weeks ago.
"It gives us more confidence to have two wins from two," Vermaelen said. "The most important thing is to win your home games. We want to keep it going."
But the Gunners were hesitant in the first half in the wake of their first loss of the season on Saturday in the Premier League against Chelsea.
"It probably affected our confidence a little bit getting (beaten) ... maybe there was a little bit of a carry-over," said Arsenal assistant coach Steve Bould, who spoke as manager Arsene Wenger served a touchline ban.
"But we're hoping now that we've won, that has gone, done and dusted, and we get back on track."
Arsenal had initially pressed with conviction, and Santi Cazorla's free kick was heading into the net until Megyeri produced a fingertip save.
Megyeri's opposite number Vito Mannone had to be alert, though, to block a low strike from Mitroglou from the edge of the area.
An edginess has returned to Arsenal's defense after a solid start to the season, and it looked like being exploited again.
A cross from Giannis Maniatis was allowed all too easily to find its way into the penalty area. Arsenal was only rescued by Paulo Machado's poor finishing, with a scuffed connection and the resulting shot scooped over with the goal at his mercy.
"We started well, with a high tempo and that was great but then we dropped a little," Vermaelen said.
Olympiakos' defense was breached first as Gibbs and Podolski combined down the left flank and the ball reached the edge of the penalty area where Gervinho seized control and struck it into the net.
The visitors immediately pushed for the equalizer, but Machado was too rushed as he shot from distance and Mannone easily collected the shot.
The equalizer came a minute later when Lenadro Greco sent with precision from the right flank into the penalty area, where Mitroglou rose between the center backs to nod a header into the net.
"We looked a little bit nervy," Bould said.
And Arsenal's first chance to regain the lead in the second half was squandered when Cazorla missed the target after Gervinho did the hard work, cutting the ball back to his unmarked teammate in front of goal.
But after Gervinho's interplay with Cazorla on the right, Podolski put Arsenal in front, with a shot through the legs of Megyeri.
"Today he had two or three good saves and when it comes to the goal, in football you can always only do the best you can," Olympiakos coach Leonardo Jardim said through a translator.
Mannone started the move that led to Arsenal's third, with a long throw flicked on by Olivier Giroud to fellow substitute Ramsey. The midfielder went past captain Giannis Maniatis and coolly lifted the ball over the onrushing Megyeri.
"The result doesn't represent Olympiakos ... but this result has given us a lesson that in this competition it's very important to take your chances," Jardim said.
Updated October 3, 2012