Theo threat: Chamberlain throws down the gauntlet
ARSENAL 2 vs OLYMPIACOS 1
TEENAGER Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored on his Champions League debut as Arsenal saw off Olympiacos – and was then tipped to rival team-mate Theo Walcott for a place in the England side.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, who only turned 18 in August, and fellow summer signing Andre Santos scored inside the first 20 minutes as a weakened Gunners team survived a fraught finale to earn their first win in Group F.
The £15m former Southampton trainee is already pushing Walcott for a place on the right wing, and assistant manager Pat Rice believes it is something the elder player will have to get used to.
“Alex is a very confident boy, he’s a very strong boy, he listens to what people tell him but I think he makes his own mind up. He can go inside or outside, he’s got that injection of pace — what he needs now is to be consistent in his play,” said Rice.
“Arsenal supporters are going to see a lot of this boy. He’s got a big, big challenge in trying to get in front of Theo. Theo’s a very strong-willed guy as well and he won’t give in easy. It all bodes well for England, anyway.”
Manager Arsene Wenger, watching from the stands as he completed a touchline ban, made six changes, with captain Robin van Persie among those rested with Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham looming.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was handed only his second start and took just eight minutes to seize the opportunity, capitalising on a ricochet to drive into the penalty area and fire low past Franco Costanzo with his less-favoured left foot.
The shellshocked visitors fell further behind on 20 minutes, when Mikel Arteta released Andre Santos, his cross was cut out and the Brazilian left-back seized the rebound to beat a hapless Costanzo at his near post.
It all looked too easy for the Gunners, and so it proved. In the 27th minute a short corner caught Arsenal napping and, when Ariel Ibagaza dinked a cross onto the penalty spot unmarked Spanish midfielder David Fuster planted a header down and past Wojciech Szczesny.
The agile Pole prevented an equaliser before half-time but was beaten by a long-range Vassilis Torossidis shot that dipped onto the bar early in the second half.
Arsenal failed to find a third goal, Oxlade-Chamberlain dallying on their best chance, and had to cling on for a third successive win in all competitions.