Costly mistakes from Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone lead to Gunners defeat in Arsene Wenger's 200th European game as Yossi Benayoun nets consolation strike in poor performance
Arsene Wenger tasted defeat in his 200th European game as Arsenal lost 3-1 to Olympiakos as goals from Rafik Djebbour, David Fuster and Francois Modesto secured all three points for the Greeks whilst Yossi Benayoun grabbed a consolation goal.
The hosts took the lead when Djebbour was put behind the Gunners defence and knocked the ball past Lukasz Fabianski who rushed out of his net to try and stop the striker.
Fuster doubled Olympiakos’ lead in the 36th minute pouncing on a mistake by Arsenal sub keeper Vito Mannone as his volley evaded the feet of the Italian when he was well placed to catch the ball.
Benayoun got the visitors back into the game with a scorching volley after linking up well with Marouane Chamakh’s chest down to him on the edge of the 18-yard box which was the high point for a disappointing night for the Gunners.
Modesto made sure of the victory in 89th minute tapping in from close range but it was not enough to advance the hosts to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Arsene Wenger made nine changes to his team that convincingly beat Wigan 4-0 at the weekend with only defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Andre Santos keeping their places in their side.
Arsenal lined-up in a 4-3-3 formation with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andrey Arshavin supporting Chamakh up-front. Sebastien Squillaci and Lukasz Fabianski made their first Champions League appearances of the season in three changes to the back five.
Meanwhile the home-side matched the visitors system and featured in the team former Aston Villa defender Olof Mellberg but were without on-loan Villa midfielder Jean Makoun and playmaker Ariel Ibagaza.
Arsenal had the first opportunity of the game and Arshavin should have put them ahead following a one-two with Chamakh but he struck his effort straight at Balasz Megyeri in the Greek side’s goal.
Wenger’s side again caused Olympiakos problems when Chamakh was put through but he was denied by Papdopolous who made a great last ditch tackle and Emmanuel Frimpong’s follow-up effort went just wide of the post.
Despite the Gunners threat the home side took the lead through Djebbour in the 16th minute when he was put through by Fuster. The Algerian remained composed as he rounded Fabianski and slotted the ball into the net.
Gunners keeper Fabianski almost gifted the home side a two goal cushion as he sliced his clearance straight into the path of Kevin Mirallas who hit his volley first-time to catch the Pole off his line but fortunately for Arsenal it went just wide.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had been kept out of the game by the hosts attacking play but he got into the action and gave Benayoun a good chance to draw Wenger’s side level with a wonderful cross but the Israeli couldn’t get his shot on target.
Olympiakos got a deserved second goal through Fuster in embarrassing circumstances for Arsenal substitute keeper Mannone who rushed out of his area to clear the ball with his head.
The 23-year-old’s clearance went only as far as the midfielder who hit a tame volley at goal which the Italian tried to kick-away instead of catching however he missed the ball completely and it nestled into the bottom corner.
Olympiakos started the second half on top and nearly got a third goal but this time Mannone did well to deny Francois Medesto as he pounced at the back-post after capitalising on a Santos error.
Arsenal’s defending was becoming a horror show as Mellberg nearly netted after pouncing on an error by Mannone from a corner only to be denied by substitute Ignasi Miquel who headed the ball off the line.
Despite their defensive frailties the Gunners got back into the game in the 57th minute when Benayoun superbly volleyed past Megyeri giving the Hungarian keeper no chance after latching onto Chamakh’s knockdown on the edge of the area.
This reprieve for Wenger’s side was nearly taken straight away following more questionable keeping and defending between Mannone and Squillaci as neither went for the loose ball in the Arsenal area and Modesto nipped in but headed just wide of the post.
The Gunners came into the half more as the game progressed and could have got an unlikely equaliser when sub Tomas Rosicky linked up with Benayoun who put the Czech midfielder through on goal but he could not lift the ball over Megyeri who made a good stop.
Olympiakos were always a danger going forward and should have wrapped the game up when Modesto found Pablo Orbaiz in the box but the midfielder scuffed his effort and Arsenal managed to clear before Djebbour could pounce on the loose ball.
Ernesto Valverde’s side made sure of the points when Modesto tapped in when Mellberg’s header rebounded off the post after the Swede had risen highest from a corner.
However the home side’s efforts were in vain as their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages were ended when Marseille beat Dortmund to finish second in the Group F.