English Premier League outfit, Arsenal, embarrassingly stumbled at the first hurdle in their UEFA Champion’s League campaign last night.
The club was widely expected to win the match, their first in the group stages of this season’s competition, with ease, and by some margin.
However their opponents, Dinamo Zagreb of the Croatian First Football League, were the beneficiaries of an unfortunately (or rather, fortunately, depending on your inclination) underwhelming performance from the Gunners.
The Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, must have deemed the opponents’ threat sufficiently insignificant, as reflected by wholesale changes made to the squad that started against Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday.
His players must also have surmised the same, or perhaps Mr. Wenger openly expressed it, as their early performance was nothing short of complacent.
But the biggest talking point of the first half was the sending off of Olivier Giroud, the Gunners’ lone striker.
Giroud was deemed to have fouled Antolic in the twenty-third minute as the two were contesting a high ball, but his petulant reaction to the referee was what earned him a yellow card.
A minute later, the Croats scored the opening goal of the match from a well crafted passing move that saw Pivaric shoot at Arsenal goalkeeper, David Ospina and the resulting ricochet bouncing back off of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shin and into the goal.
In the fortieth minute, Giroud committed another yellow card-worthy foul, this time by clumsily tackling Zagreb’s right-back, Pinto, from behind.
He unnecessarily increased the burden on his teammates, as they were already struggling against the European minnows with eleven men.
In the second half, Zagreb extended their lead to two, through a Fernandes header from a corner kick in the fifty-eighth minute. Arsene Wenger looked on helplessly from the dugout.
However, seemingly from nowhere, Alexis Sanchez creatively put Theo Walcott through in the seventy-ninth minute, and the Englishman finished classily, giving the English side a lifeline.
However, despite five minutes of added time, the game ended 2-1 to Zagreb and the hosts deservedly took all three points from a very poor Arsenal side on the night.