Champions League: Progress will be tough now, warns Wenger

Frank Dalleres
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ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger admits his “naive” side have left themselves an uphill task to qualify for the Champions League knockout stage after succumbing to ruthless Borussia Dortmund last night.

The Gunners slipped to only their second defeat of the season as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Robert Lewandowski buried two of the visitors’ three shots on target either side of Olivier Giroud’s equaliser.

But for the woodwork they might have been ahead when Lewandowski volleyed the 82nd-minute winner, but instead they find themselves tied with last year’s finalists and Napoli on six points, but with the disadvantage of having to visit both of their rivals.
“Tight and difficult for us, but possible,” is how Wenger surveyed Group F.

“We have three teams with six points. We have played twice at home and once away so we need a result away from home. But we can do that.

“We put ourselves on the back foot with the first goal and were a bit naive on the second. Look at the number of saves our keeper had to make tonight and we conceded two goals. We can only look at ourselves.”

Lewandowski’s winner had a whiff of controversy, the Pole having escaped with a booking for elbowing Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny earlier in the second half, but Wenger’s protests were half-hearted.

“It looked like that [a sending off] – I haven’t seen it well, honestly,” he added. “The ref was in a much better situation than I was. I will have to look at it again.”

A third successive home defeat against German opposition was compounded by an injury setback to Jack Wilshere, who was taken off with a sore ankle. He is a doubt for Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace.

Fatigue was Wenger’s explanation for a lack of fluency, though Dortmund’s relentless pressing was also key, not least in the 16th minute when Marco Reus dispossessed a sleepwalking Aaron Ramsey on the edge of the box, allowing Lewandowski to feed Mkhitaryan to drill past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Only as half-time neared did the home side rediscover vim, Tomas Rosicky forcing Mats Hummels to clear off the line before Giroud levelled. Neven Subotic’s attempt to intercept Bacaray Sagna’s cross deceived his goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller, and the France striker gratefully volleyed into an empty net.

Substitute Santi Cazorla was inches from putting Arsenal in front on 69 minutes, his steered first-time shot from 18 yards clipping the angle of post and bar. But moments later right-back Kevin Grosskreutz tore down the flank and found Lewandowski arriving late and unmarked at the far post to volley past Szczesny with precision.