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UEFA Champions League
18 September 2012
• Stade de la Mosson, Montpellier
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo
• Attendance: 27522
Y. Belhanda 9'
L. Podolski 16'
Y. Gervinho 18'
90' + 3'
On that note, it's goodbye from me, Andy Sixsmith. Many thanks for joining us here on Goal.com and we hope to see you soon. Bonsoir.
90' + 3'
Arsenal held out though and go top of Group B with three home games remaining. Montpellier can count themselves unlucky not to take a point after a courageous second half display but should they perform like that, they'll be a test for any side.
90' + 3'
Full Time: Montpellier 1-2 Arsenal: The Gunners get their Champions League campaign off to a winning start with a gritty victory in France. A largely comfortable 45 minutes gave no indication as to the pressure the North London side would be put under in the second half as the home side came roaring back. Younes Belhanda missed the best of the chances, firing straight at Vito Mannone from 6 yards out.
90' + 2'
That, as they say, could be that. One final chance for Montpellier...
90' + 1'
Penalty Appeal! Montpellier want a penalty as Garry Bocaly...err...runs into Abou Diaby. Nothing doing there. No need for the theatrics from the right back.
More pressure from the home side prompts Steve Bould to make the final of Arsenal's changes, bringing on Coquelin and Walcott for Podolski and Cazorla. Eyes on Sunday's clash with Manchester City perhaps?
This game is far from over. Montpellier are being roared on by the vociferous home support and you just feel, they'll get one more chance before the full time whistle goes. Arsenal's attackers having to drop deeper and deeper to soak up the wave of Montpellier attacks.
Yellow Card Younes Belhanda
Arsenal hanging on rather grimly here as we enter the last 5 minutes. Montpellier are coming on strongly again and are showing why they're the reigning Ligue 1 champions. The Gunners looking a tad lethargic as the minutes tick by.
CHANCE!! Huge chance. Huge, huge, huge. Younes Belhanda will perhaps live to regret that. A ball from the right falls to the Moroccan who expertly sells Per Mertesacker a dummy, but can only fire straight at Mannone from 6 yards out. Shocking miss.
Rather surprised to see Abou Diaby still out there. The big Frenchman has been recovering from a slight knock and looks a little tired out there, giving the ball away far too cheaply. Montpellier not as effervescent as they were in the opening stages of the second period, but still provide a danger.
Nice touch from the Montpellier fans who applaud home favourite Olivier Giroud off the pitch as he's substituted for Aaron Ramsey to stiffen up the midfield. The result by no means a foregone conclusion for the Gunners right now.
Giroud watch - The Frenchman has been largely anonymous in this second half, but that's largely due to the lack of possession Arsenal have had. Montpellier, to their great credit, have been much improved.
The tireless Lukas Podolski almost fashions himself an opportunity, pulling a high ball out of the sky before eventually being crowded out in the penalty area. At the other end, Abou Diaby can count himself a little lucky to still be on the pitch after an ill-timed trip on Belhanda. Diaby has already been booked, let me remind you...
Karim Ait Fana
Penalty Appeal - This would be a very soft one. Younes Belhanda goes down extremely easily under a nothing challenge from Thomas Vermaelen after more neat interplay on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. Nothing doing from referee Carballo.
A bit of a lull in the second half, not entirely surprising with the tempo that Montpellier set out at. Arsenal have hauled themselves back into contention but Cabella and Mounier look dangerous for the hosts. 25 minutes remaining in France.
Arsenal, as they have done at the start of this season, have looked very potent down the left side and that is where they are causing Montpellier the most problems tonight. Kieran Gibbs in particular, is looking to get forward at every opportunity.
Is that the storm ridden then for the Gunners? 15 minutes gone in a second-half that has largely belonged to the buoyant home side. Steve Bould may be tempted to freshen things up with a substitute or two.
CHANCE! More like it from Arsenal who seem to have heard my calls. A surging, powerful run from Abou Diaby leads to Santi Cazorla's left-footed effort being beaten away by Jourdran. Magnificent run by the Frenchman.
So a sticky patch for Arsenal to negotiate at the start of this second half then. You sense Montpellier won't be able to keep this up until the 90 minute mark, but the Gunners need to weather the storm for the meantime.
WOODWORK!! Montpellier are getting ever closer and Remy Cabella, who has looked the player most likely, has just clipped the crossbar with a beautiful 20-yard chip, leaving Mannone stranded. Very unlucky for the dangerous midfielder.
A bit of keep-ball for Arsenal comes to nothing and Montpellier surge forward again, but Garry Boccaly's wild slash flies over. Shortly after, Olivier Giroud gives the ball away on the halfway line and Mounier can't direct his effort on target when through on goal. The Stade Mosson is bouncing.
From the resulting corner, Anthony Mounier's well struck left footed effort is well blocked by Thomas Vermaelen. Arsene Wenger, looking on from the stands serving the first of a three match touchline ban, will be fuming.
Hmm... Arsenal seem to have stayed in the changing rooms for this second half. More dawdling on the edge of their own penalty area leads to another corner for Montpellier. Much better from the home side.
CHANCE!! Abou Diaby has almost just committed footballing suicide. He tries to trick his way out of trouble in his own penalty area rather than simply thumping clear, only for Remy Cabella to rob him but fire wildly high, wide and not so handsome. Good start to the second half from Montpellier.
What is it with this new trend of giving free kicks away in the opening 20 seconds? This time, Carl Jenkinson goes flying to earn Arsenal... another kick off.
The teams are out for the second half, unchanged and Arsenal get us back underway. More of the same please, gentlemen.
45' + 2'
So an entertaining first half in France. Montpellier have far from disgraced themselves on their Champions League debut, but once stung into action, Arsenal's experience and class in front of goal has proven the difference.
45' + 1'
Half time at the Stade Mosson - Montpellier 1-2 Arsenal. Younes Belhanda gave the home side the lead after winning and then cutely converting an 8th minute penalty. But Arsenal hit back within ten minutes as firstly, Lukas Podolski netted his third of the season after fine build-up play involving Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, then Gervinho was rewarded for a fine run as he bundled home Carl Jenkinson's right-wing centre.
The half chances are racking up for Arsenal. Kieran Gibbs escapes down the left and his left-footed cross is met by Olivier Giroud who can only stab a difficult volley wide. Nice movement by the former Montpellier man to create the space for himself though.
Gervinho is really impressing on his return to France. The former Lille winger looks threatening everytime he receives the ball and another slaloming run ends with his shot ballooning into the arms of Jourdren.
Gervinho involved again as he almost latches onto Abou Diaby's lofted pass, only for Jourdren to come out of his goal quickly and mop up the danger.
Yellow Card Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
More good defensive covering by Arsenal as Belhanda and Camara threaten to open up the Gunners. Thomas Vermaelen this time stands strong and the back-tracking Gervinho is there to clear. Montpellier still threatening sporadically as we approach half-time.
Almost chances at both ends. Firstly Giroud is nearly put in by Lukas Podolski, before Montpellier break but Belhanda's pull-back is just behind Camara. Lots of cut and thrust in this game which is excellent to see.
10 minutes to go until the break and after a breathtaking first 20 minutes, the game has quietened down somewhat. Arsenal looking comfortable, but Montpellier have shown they have enough about them to strike if given the chance.
Of course, as I say that about Montpellier, Vito Mannone has to be alert to push Marco Estrada's 20-yard drive round the post. Better from the home side.
Possibly one of the silliest free-kick routines (if you want to call it that) you'll see from Arsenal. Cazorla looks as if he'll take it, then gives it to Arteta, who is closed down sharply. Rather to-me, to-you.
I didn't type this often last season, with Arsenal at time, resembling a sinking ship at the back, but Steve Bould's impact is clear for all to see. The Gunners look organised and disciplined across the back four and Montpellier are finding it difficult to break down the barriers on the rare occasion they have concerted possession.
Meanwhile, on Giroud watch, the Frenchman has been quiet on his return to Montpellier, aside from that sumptuous through ball for the Podolski equaliser. Lots of endeavour with little to show for it so far.
Montpellier to their credit, are sticking at it. Olivier Giroud gives the ball away with a sloppy pass in midfield, but tracks back well to deflect behind for a home corner.
There's a slight drop in tempo as Arsenal pass it around midfield with ease. Montpellier seem a little stunned by that two minute salvo from the Gunners.
Carl Jenkinson again gets away down the right and his cross is diverted behind for a corner.
At the other end, Arsenal look dangerous every time they come forward. Gervinho, Podolski and Cazorla are working beautifully in tandem. I don't think you'd get high odds on there not being another goal or three in this one.
Phew. I can hardly catch my breath here. This match is an absolute delight to watch, swift passing, high tempo and two attacking sides looking for goals. Montpellier have a free kick on the right hand corner of the penalty area now, that's well dealt with by Arsenal.
Assist Carl Jenkinson
GOAALLL!! Arsenal turn the tables in France and it's another incisive passing move that cuts open Montpellier. Gervinho's slaloming run ended with the ball at Carl Jenkinson's feet and the Ivorian continued his run to sidefoot the right-back's pinpoint cross home.
Assist Olivier Giroud
Goal Lukas Podolski
GOAAALLLL!!! Lukas Podolski calmly finishes off a typically slick Arsenal move involving Diaby, Cazorla and finally a slide rule ball from Giroud, allowing the German to score yet again for the Gunners. It's 1-1 in the Stade Mosson.
A slightly speculative 25 yard effort from Cabella flies harmlessly over Mannone's bar. The game is being played out at a frantic pace.
That is only the second goal Arsenal have conceded this season but after only 8 minutes of their opening Champions League game, it's a poor one. The home side are high on confidence right now.
Well, well, well. Who saw that coming? So much for Montpellier's nervous start. It has to be said Vermaelen was very clumsy in his challenge and I've seen penalties given for less. The home support went stark raving bonkers. Arsenal need to settle once more.
Penalty Goal Younes Belhanda
The atmosphere in the stadium is raucous. The players look nervous. The Champions League 2012/13 is moments away.... GOOOAAALLLLL!! Younes Belhanda converts the penalty he won with an impudent slowed up chip down the centre of the goal to give Montpellier the lead!!
PENALTY TO MONTPELLIER. Thomas Vermaelen clumsily fells Younes Belhanda in the penalty area and the referee blows up.
It comes as little surprise to see Santi Cazorla at the hub of everything good right now for the Gunners. Montpellier are struggling to deal with his movement and incisiveness and it's given Arsenal an early foothold in this encounter.
Arsenal settling into a trademark passing rhythm with the home side looking decidedly nervous
Dangerous free-kick for Arsenal on the edge of the Montpellier area, but Santi Cazorla's shot is driven into the wall.
It's a scrappy start for the visitors and Abou Diaby picks up a first minute booking for a late challenge on Bedimo.
Yellow Card A. Diaby
We are underway in Montpellier
Montpellier get Group B underway and we are GO.
Carlos Verlasco Carballo is our referee tonight.
The teams are in the tunnel. We are 5 minutes away from kick off at the Stade Mosson folks. And moments away from hearing that wonderful Champions League anthem for the first time this season... Looking forward to this one.
Arsenal on the other hand, have recovered from two scoreless draws to register impressive wins against Liverpool and more recently Southampton. There are arguments that Wenger's men haven't had a test as of yet this season, but Montpellier should provide them with that at the very least.
So how are the two teams shaping up in the run-up to this clash? Montpellier have had a ...stuttering start to the new season with three defeats in five games so far. Hardly championship retaining form from Rene Girard's boys. On the contrary, they're already in the relegation places in Ligue 1. Ooh er.
Away from the team maybe, but it’s fair to say that chairman Louis Nicollin is a tad eccentric. Couple of examples for you – dyeing his hair the club colours following their championship win in May and most recently calling three quarters of his players ‘a**holes’ after a disappointing start to the season. Character.
Yanga-Mbiwa is the club's captain and a towering centre back. At the other end of the scale, last season's Ligue 1 Young Player of the Season was 22-year-old playmaker Younes Belhanda. The Moroccan is very well regarded in Europe and has already netted once in four appearances this season.
I'll forgive a lot of you if you hadn't heard a lot about Montpellier before last season. So I'll give you a rundown of their star performers. 23-year-old Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (say that when you've had a few) was linked with a move away from the Stade Mosson in the summer, with Arsenal themselves credited with an interest, but he decided to stay at the club.
Montpellier's story is a rather fascinating one, I must say. Never fancied domestically, they upset all the odds to win Ligue 1 last season and qualify for this year's Champions League. A splendid achievement from Rene Girard's men.
Montpellier and Arsenal have never met before in a competitive fixture, so with the transfer of Olivier Giroud to the Gunners over the summer, it was inevitable they’d end up in the same Champions League group. Err, welcome home Olivier?
This season's Champions League marks the 15th consecutive time Arsenal have appeared in the tournament's group stages. Of those 15 appearances, they have qualified from their group 12 times. Rather consistent from Arsene Wenger's men.
No pre-match build up is complete without a few statistics for you football lovers. So I'll oblige. And this one's a biggy. Arsenal have never lost in France in the Champions League.... I repeat. The Gunners have never lost in France in the Champions League.
Arsenal's team in full for you then: Mannone, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Diaby, Arteta, Gervinho, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud. Subs: Shea, Koscielny, Andre Santos, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Coquelin.
Arsenal make three changes from the side that comprehensively beat Southampton 6-1 at the weekend, with Vito Mannone coming in for the injured Wojciech Szczesny, Francis Coquelin making way for the returning Abou Diaby and finally, the big news, Olivier Giroud returning to his former club, replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the front three.
Let's take a look at the teams, first of all the home side, Montpellier: Jourdren, Bocaly, Yanga M'Biwa, Hilton, Bedimo, Estrada, Saihi, Mounier, Belhanda, Cabella, Camara. Subs: Pionnier, Marveaux, Herrera, Congre, Ait-Fana, Stambouli, Jeunechamp.
Hello, good evening and welcome to Goal.com's coverage of the Champions League Group B encounter between Montpellier v Arsenal. I have been, am and always will be Andy Sixsmith and I'm here before, during and after the match to cover all the major events. So, let's get started then shall we?
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