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Wasteful PSG let Arsenal off the hook

Instead it was Ospina, such a liability in the Champions League last season, who came to Arsenal\'s rescue on more.

Published: 14th September 2016 08:54 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th September 2016 08:54 AM   |  A+A-

Arsenal-AP

PSG's Marquinhos, right, challenges for the ball with Arsenal's Olivier Giroud during the Champions League group A soccer match group between Paris Saint Germain and Arsenal at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. | AP

If there was to be a fall-guy in one of those Arsenal European nights when it all goes wrong, then David Ospina looked like the perfect candidate but this was one of those occasions when the usual catastrophe narrative that so often blights his club was turned on its head.

Instead it was Ospina, such a liability in the Champions League last season, who came to Arsenal's rescue on more than half a dozen occasions with saves of the highest calibre before Alexis Sanchez plundered an unlikely equaliser. Arsene Wenger's team selection had looked for all the world like one of the eccentric decisions destined to doom their manager to defeat, and a goal behind in the first minute that seemed the most likely outcome.

Outplayed in midfield, overrun for the first half, Arsenal were clinging on yet somehow Edinson Cavani, Paris Saint-Germain's goalscorer, conspired to miss an extraordinary number of chances with Ospina the man who simply would not give in.

In injury-time, the substitute Olivier Giroud and PSG's playmaker Marco Verratti were both given second yellow cards for an episode of shoving off the ball and the sense of chaos engulfing the night was complete.

In the end, Arsenal left Paris with a point against the French champions in what is the hardest fixture of Group A. For Wenger, it was hardly vindication for his pre-match claims that this is his most mature Arsenal squad yet, but there was still that sense of wonder at the results the old boy pulls off, even as the doubts grow ever stronger about his future.

Wenger picked Ospina for the first time since he conceded three away at West Ham in April, an unhappy experience for the Colombian but nothing like as bad as his part in the home defeat to Olympiakos in last season's Champions League. That was a year ago this month and put an end to Wenger's policy of using his second choice goalkeeper in Europe.

Against PSG, Ospina was not the problem for Arsenal - rather he was arguably the best player in an Arsenal shirt. While their second choice goalkeeper endeavoured to keep them in the game with save after save, Ospina's team-mates were afforded the chance to rescue an improbable draw.

It was the limpness with which they started the game and lopsided elsewhere which allowed them to be dominated. Granit Xhaka and Giroud, both used as second half substitutes were surprisingly left out of the starting XI and by the time they were on the pitch, the biggest shock was that Arsenal were still in the match.

Cavani, who scored in the first minute had about four more opportunities to score and in the main found himself thwarted by Ospina. Wenger opted for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi in the wide attacking positions and, generally his team paid for it. In defence, they relied upon their goalkeeper and Skhodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny were certainly missing for Cavani's goal within the first minute.The overwhelming mood as -Arsene Wenger's players headed for the tunnel at half-time was that this could have been a whole lot worse if things had carried on the way they were going when Arsenal started the match with a terrible -capitulation in the first minute.

They usually wait until the end of their Champions League adventure to roll over but in Paris they did it within 40 seconds, having barely put a boot on the ball. Serge Aurier easily outran Nacho Monreal down the right wing and hit a cross that Edinson Cavani headed in without a red shirt within touching -distance.

In the technical area in his shirt-sleeves, Wenger barely moved. Even by the standard of his collection of unreliables this was an -astonishingly poor start. Over the course of the half you could see that PSG were of a mind to kill this game once and for all and, but for a -couple of misjudgements in front of goal by Cavani, they surely would have done.

The worst fears about Wenger's selection were realised mainly in midfield.

Ospina made one good save from an Angel Di Maria corner that dipped under his bar, but really there was not much for which he could be held at fault in the opening stages. The game was being lost in the middle of the pitch, where Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin were being overrun and passed through.

Marco Verratti was pulling the strings for PSG but the power and sharpness of Adrien Rabiot and Gregorz Krychowiak around him made it impossible for Arsenal to control the home team. There were holes everywhere and the wonder was not that PSG were all over the English side but that they did not score more goals before the break.

With 11 minutes of the first half to play, Cavani had a through ball from Verratti deflected into his path by Monreal and managed to go around Ospina. With the goal open he put his shot wide. Later in the half he miscontrolled a chip into him from Di Maria and the ball bounced too far off his chest for the Argentine to execute a shot at goal.

For all Arsenal's faults, it was not as if they were up against the -perfect machine in PSG, who have had an indifferent start to their domestic season by their standards. Generally speaking, when the away team ran at them, PSG tended to make mistakes. Monreal got in down the left in the 22nd minute and chipped the ball to the back post to Alex -Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose -header back across goal was not precise enough.

In the space of three minutes, Ospina saved shots from Aurier, Cavani and Di Maria when PSG really should have buried their opponents. Arsenal were creating less and less but with Xhaka and Giroud finally on the pitch, and the heat sapping some of the earlier energy from PSG eventually a chance presented itself.

The first shot on 77 minutes was from Iwobi, well saved by Alphonse Areola and when it fell to Sanchez in the box it was probably the Chilean first decent sight of goal all evening. He struck it beautifully to beat PSG's goalkeeper. Ospina made yet another save from Cavani whe the Uruguayan tried to dribble round him. The red cards came before a final chance for PSG, but Arsenal survived with their goalkeeper to thank.

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