Arsenal kept waiting after Marseille stalemate

Arsenal missed the chance to book their place in the Champions League knockout stage in London on Tuesday after being held to a 0-0 draw by French side Marseille.

Updated: November 02, 2011 11:21 IST
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London: Arsenal missed the chance to book their place in the Champions League knockout stage in London on Tuesday after being held to a 0-0 draw by French side Marseille.

A lacklustre Group F encounter at the Emirates saw Arsenal fail to build on the momentum generated by their thrilling 5-3 victory over Chelsea in the Premier League last weekend.

Arsene Wenger's team could have sealed their place in the last 16 with two matches to spare with a victory over Marseille.

Instead the Gunners were left with plenty to do in their final group games at home to Borussia Dortmund and away to Olympiakos.

Wenger's decision to leave captain Robin van Persie on the bench also failed to reap rewards, with the Dutch striker's replacement, South Korean international Park Ju-Young enduring a difficult first Champions League start.

By the time Wenger replaced Park with van Persie after just over an hour, Arsenal's challenge had already begun to fizzle out despite a bright opening.

Van Persie, who had scored a memorable hat-trick against Chelsea, raised Arsenal's hopes when played in by Tomas Rosicky on 77 minutes but the striker's cheeky attempted chip was well-saved by Marseille captain Steve Mandanda.

That attempt was Arsenal's only meaningful chance on goal in a disappointing second half display that will raise more questions about the strength of the Gunners recent revival.

The result left Arsenal on top of the group with eight points from four games, one ahead of Marseille with seven, and four points ahead of Dortmund in third, 1-0 winners over Olympiakos.

Marseille had made the brighter start in an entertaining first half, taking advantage of some early uncertainty in an Arsenal back four which welcomed back Thomas Vermaelen at centre-half.

The game was barely minutes old before Andre Ayew worked an opening down the left flank, crossing to brother Jordan whose cheeky flick drifted wide.

Moments later Marseille were threatening again, Loic Remy crossing for Andre Ayew whose shot went just wide.

Arsenal had to wait until the 10th minute for their first genuine chance.

Gervinho found Theo Walcott who veered in on goal from the right flank and saw his angled low shot well saved by Mandanda.

After overcoming their slow start, Arsenal enjoyed the better of proceedings thereafter but all too often their attacks broke down when they reached Park, the Korean's poor first touch invariably giving Marseille's defence precious seconds to regroup.

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey ought to have done better in the 22nd minute, scooping Andre Santos's whipped in cross just over the bar.

At the other end Marseille continued to fire the odd warning shot, with Remy shooting just wide after executing a clever one-two with Benoit Cheyrou.

Arsenal then twice went close to taking the lead within the space of a minute. First Gervinho's wicked shot was parried wide by Mandanda on 29 minutes, and then a minute later the Ivory Coast international played in Ramsey.

The in-form Welshman took too long to get his shot off however, allowing Nicolas N'Koulou time to block.

Arsenal pressure augured well for the second half but with Wenger's side firing blanks, the stalemate continued.

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