Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Arsenal on the brink after shock collapse

Arsenal's Champions League hopes were dealt a huge blow as Monaco secured a deserved victory at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners were frustrated for much of the first half and fell behind shortly before the break as Geoffrey Kondogbia's long-range effort deflected off Per Mertesacker and past David Ospina.

Olivier Giroud missed two big chances to equalise shortly after half-time, and the hosts were made to pay for wasting their opportunities as Dimitar Berbatov ended a Monaco counterattack with a controlled finish.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came off the bench to pull a goal back late on with a curled finish before Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco broke free of the home defence to score with an angled drive.

Monaco conceded just once as they topped Group C, but were under pressure early on as Danny Welbeck was among those to threaten Danijel Subasic's goal with an effort that was narrowly off target

However, the resurgent visitors - beaten just once since the start of December - seemed to grow in confidence with Joao Moutinho pulling the strings in midfield.

As Monaco frustrated Arsenal's array of playmaking talent, chances were few and far between in the opening half an hour, although Alexis Sanchez angled a shot just over the crossbar soon after.

However, Monaco broke the deadlock seven minutes before the break with the help of a sizeable deflection, as Kondogbia's long-range strike hit Mertesacker and beat a wrong-footed Ospina.

Having failed to register a shot on target in the first half, Arsenal were made to pay for their profligacy after the break when Anthony Martial punished slack defending from Mertesacker to burst forward and find Berbatov.

The Bulgarian made no mistake in giving Monaco a two-goal lead - much to the home fans' consternation - as Wenger's men continued to waste chances, with Sanchez's effort saved by Subasic before Giroud fired over with the goal at his mercy.

Subasic saved well from substitute Theo Walcott after the hour and Welbeck's follow-up deflected off the England international before Oxlade-Chamberlain curled home a loose ball.

If Arsenal thought they had grabbed hold of a lifeline, it was quickly ripped from their grasp as Ferreira-Carrasco raced away to fire past Ospina and put the visitors in the driving seat ahead of next month's return meeting. 

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