For the third year in four Arsenal found themselves in Athens in December playing against the Greek champions with the chance to top their Champions’ League group.
As qualification had already been secured Arsène Wenger decided to rest a majority of the starting eleven from the weekend defeat to Swansea, with the team being made up of mainly squad players or youngsters.
Chesney was in goal with a back four of Jenkinson, Squillacci, Vermaelen and Meade, possibly the shortest player Arsenal have had in recent years, recalling memories of another short left back, Juan.
The midfield was made up of Coquelin, Ramsey and Rosicky behind a forward line of Gervinho, Chamakh and Oxo, who seemed to tuck inside or play a little further back than the two departees for the African Cup of Nations next month.
Despite the Olympiakos stadium with a capacity of 32,000 being less than full the game got off to a noisy start with Arsenal starting calmly, of not confidently with Chamakh winning a fair number of headers and a pattern emerging of Gervinho dwelling on the ball for too long and slowing many attacking moves. That being said, a Gervinho through ball for Chamakh early on nearly led to a shot, as did a pass from Coquelin that found our resident hookah smoker just offside after he was also involved in some defensive headers.
While the Moroccan seemed to be working hard however his lack of sharpness showed with another through ball being wasted due to a heavy touch when he almost beat the Greeks keeper, Roy Carroll, to the ball.
The first good chance for arsenal found Ramsey running onto a Chamakh pull back and then fluffing his shot rather tamely. As ever Ramsey was always showing for the ball even though some of his passes weren’t coming off and was energetic throughout.
After Arsenal’s first period of possession and attacking threat the Greeks were probing our right flank as Abdoum and Torosidis were combining well to set up scoring opportunities, while our left side was being fairly well looked after by the full debutante Meade.
And as well the centre back pairing of Vermaelen and Squillacci seemed to be working quite well, with the skipper in better form than of later with many vigorous clearing headers.
As is typical with football when one side starts to dominate they concede a goal on the counter as was the case here. Despite Gervinho constantly frustrating with making so many wrong choices in attack he cut the ball back for Tomáš Rosický onto and place into the net, 1 nil to Arsenal on 38 minutes.
With Schalke only drawing at that stage it looked like the unlikely scenario of Arsenal topping the group was on at half time, when it remained 1 nil to the away side, despite a few more forward forays from the Torosidis/Abdoum axis in the last 5 minutes of the first half.
The second half started with Rosický being replaced by Arshavin, and a few early half chances for Arsenal to extend their lead with goal ward headers from Squillacci and Chamakh.
A Chamakh cross after another Arsenal counter attack was too high for Arshavin to do much about; the Russians ariel threat being virtually non-existent.
Olympiakos got more into the game as the half wore on and Coquelin found himself getting stretched to the extent he was given a yellow card for one lunging/grappling tackle too many on Abdoum, who was a menace.
Chamakh’s hard work almost paid off after he stole possession from an opposition midfielder and threaded a ball through to Arshavin who drew a good shot from Carroll.
Then a cross from the Olympiakos led to a headed shot on the Arsenal goal that appeared to come off the post but was called a corner, to the dismay of the furious Chesney, who was booked for his protestations. To rub the salt in the equaliser came from the resulting corner as a ball back into the danger area bounced off the chest of the unfortunate Ramsey into the path of Maniatis to bundle home, one one on 64 minutes.
Sensing a chance for victory Olympiakos brought on their star striker, Mitroglou, who soon worked some space in the area to curl home a snot that put the home side in front and complete a miserable turnaround as far as Arsenal were concerned.
Aside from another Arshavin run and shot and Oxo finding a second wind with some darting runs the home side held onto the ball and ran down the clock to record a win which, in terms of the final group table, meant nothing.