Sluggish Arsenal ride their luck to three points

Posted by Andrew Mangan

GettyImages / Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC/Getty ImagesLukas Podolski put Arsenal ahead of Montpellier in the first half of their UCL encounter, but the Gunners will have to improve before they face City on Sunday.

Arsenal reminded new boys Montpellier that experience counts in the Champions League as they came from behind to win 2-1 at the Stade de la Mosson tonight.

The home side went ahead when Thomas Vermaelen fouled Younnes Belhanda on the far edge of the Arsenal box and there was a delay before the referee awarded the penalty. Belhanda dusted himself off and chipped the spot kick, Pirlo style, down the middle to make it 1-0 to Montpellier.

The old adage about being most vulnerable after you've scored rang true because Arsenal hit back within 8 minutes. A fantastic flowing move from the back came to Cazorla via Diaby, he played in Giroud and the Frenchman's touch provided Lukas Podolski with a relatively simple chance for the equaliser.

Carl Jenkinson then provided Gervinho with a tap-in after the Ivorian had started a move from the right hand side, while the rest of the half played out without too much incident. Olivier Giroud had a half chance from a Gibbs cross and that was about it from an Arsenal point of view.

In the second half the home team came out rejuvenated and Arsenal never got going at all. Arsene Wenger resisted the urge to rotate a great deal, perhaps looking at the time between Tuesday and Sunday as sufficient to recover for Man City, and we seemed to lack the usual spark and thus struggled to maintain possession for any great period.

Although Arsenal defended resolutely, Montpellier had two great chances to score. Firstly, Cabella (who caught the eye more for his ability to eat turf than his football) hit the bar with a chip that had Mannone beaten, then Belhanda squandered a one on one, shooting straight at the Italian from 8 yards after Mertesacker had over-committed in the area.

The heavy legs were obvious but Ramsey for Giroud in the 76th minute was the first change stand-in manager Steve Bould made until Walcott and Coquelin were introduced as injury-time beckoned. It was far from the fluent Arsenal performance of the weekend but credit does have to go the home side who played very well, backed by an enthusiastic and at times amusingly hostile crowd and buoyed by the new experience of Europe's top tier.

Yet it's often said that the measure of a good team is the ability to win when not playing well. Arsenal will be happy with the three points but also know that the performance level will need to improve ahead of a difficult trip to Manchester on Sunday.

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