Arsenal snatch late victory
Marseille - An injury-time goal by substitute Aaron Ramsey gave Arsenal a 1-0 win at Marseille on Wednesday that enabled Arsene Wenger's side to leapfrog their opponents to top spot in their Champions League Group F.
The Welsh midfielder applied a cool finish in the dying seconds of a forgettable game that had betrayed the fragility and lack of confidence that have plagued both sides' starts to the season.
Marseille had not conceded a goal in the competition prior to Ramsey's intervention, but they now find themselves a point behind Arsenal prior to the return fixture at the Emirates on November 1.
"We left it very late," admitted Arsenal coach Wenger.
"I think overall we had a difficult start. We lost balls in the first half, which was down to the fact that Marseille pressed us well.
"In the second half we took over. I don't think Marseille were ever dangerous in the second half.
"They defended well but in the last 15 minutes we created chances and in the end we were rewarded for the fact we kept going and got a very important victory.
"There was a bit of luck, of course, but the three points are very welcome, even though it was very difficult to swallow for Marseille."
The chances of seeing both sides in the last 16 were enhanced by Borussia Dortmund's unexpected 3-1 defeat at Olympiakos, however, which leaves the German champions bottom at the group's halfway point.
Renovation work has reduced the Stade Velodrome's capacity to 42 000 but Marseille's early-season struggles meant there were only around 30 000 fans present to see a match in which a sense of occasion was conspicuously lacking.
Marseille sported their orange third kit, with Arsenal in uncharacteristic blue, and referee Damir Skomina added a liberal splash of yellow with early bookings for Arsenal pair Alex Song and Andre Santos and Marseille's Andre Ayew.
Ayew's name was taken for protesting over Skomina's failure to award a penalty for a handball by Carl Jenkinson, and television replays suggested the hosts could count themselves unfortunate.
Marseille had started strongly but their goal was the first to be threatened, with Souleymane Diawara obliged to clear a looping header from Robin van Persie off the line.
For all their endeavour, Marseille were toiling in attack, but Loic Remy provided a flash of brilliance on the half hour, jinking inside Per Mertesacker and Jenkinson from the byline before his shot was blocked by the latter.
Moments later it was Lucho Gonzalez's turn to draw gasps from the Arsenal fans, as he stole in front of Mertesacker to toe Mathieu Valbuena's cross across goal and wide.
Lucho and Ayew sparked an unseemly scramble in the Arsenal box minutes shy of the hour, before a defensive error by Nicolas N'Koulou almost gifted the visitors the opening goal at the other end.
The Cameroon centre-back allowed the ball to run beneath his foot, giving Walcott a clear sight of goal, albeit from a narrow angle, but Marseille captain Mandanda saved with his feet.
Mandanda then denied van Persie, but Marseille looked to be safe until Ramsey was gifted acres of space on the left-hand side of the Marseille area and calmly placed the winner inside Mandanda's right-hand post.
Collated Champions League results on Wednesday:
At Leverkusen, Germany
Bayer Leverkusen (GER) 2 (Schurrle 52, Sam 56) Valencia (ESP) 1 (Jonas 24)
Chelsea (ENG) 5 (Meireles 8, Torres 11, 27, Ivanovic 42, Kalou 73) Genk (BEL) 0
At Marseille, France
Marseille (FRA) 0 Arsenal (ENG) 1 (Ramsey 90)
At Piraeus, Greece
Olympiakos (GRE) 3 (Holebas 8, Djebbour 40 Modesto 79) Borussia Dortmund (GER) 1 (Lewandowski 26)
At Donetsk, Ukraine
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) 2 (Silva Willian 15, Silva Luiz Adriano 45) Zenit St Petersburg (RUS) 2 (Shirokov 33, Faitzulin 60)
At Oporto, Portugal
Porto (POR) 1 (Hulk 13) APOEL Nicosia (CYP) 1 (Jose Almeida 19)
At Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona (ESP) 2 (Iniesta 10, Villa 82) Viktoria Plzen (CZE) 0
At Milan, Italy
AC Milan (ITA) 2 (Ibrahimovic 33, Boateng 70) BATE Borisov (BLR) 0
At Naples, Italy
Napoli (ITA) 1 (Badsuber 39-og) Bayern Munich (GER) 1 (Kroos 2)
At Manchester, England
Manchester City (ENG) 2 (Marchena 43-og, Aguero 90+3) Villarreal (ESP) 1 (Cani 4)
CSKA Moscow (RUS) 3 (Doumbia 29, 86, Cauna 76) Trabzonspor (TUR) 0
At Lille, France
Lille (FRA) 0 Inter Milan (ITA) 1 (Pazzini 21)
At Basel, Switzerland
FC Basel (SUI) 0 Benfica (POR) 2 (Cesar 20, Cordoza 75)
Otelul Galati (ROM) 0 Manchester United (ENG) 2 (Rooney 64-pen, 90+2-pen)
Real Madrid (ESP) 4 (Benzema 19, Khedira 47, Lloris 55-og, Sergio Ramos 81) Lyon (FRA) 0
Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) 0 Ajax (NED) 2 (Boerrigter 49, Eriksen 90)