By Walter Broeckx
A few changes as we already knew as some players had to stay at home. Walcott, Bellerin, Monreal and Santi amongst them.
So we had Jenkinson at right back and Gibbs came on at left back but he did that in the last matches also. Xhaka also came back in the team after having missed 3 matches and Elneny dropped to the bench. Also the return of Ramsey in the team at the right flank for this match. And up front we had Giroud so a few changes in the formation for Arsenal.
Arsenal team at the start : Ospina, Gibbs, Koscielny, Mustafi, Jenks, Xhaka, Coq, Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud.
On the cold looking beach: Cech, Gabriel, Holding, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi.
Arsenal playing the ball around and pushing Ludogorets back a cross from Alexis is kicked wide by Ramsey when Jenkinson was right behind him. Alexis then on the left flank a cross to Özil but his shot was straight at the keeper. That was a good chance. Ludogorets gets a soft free kick for a handball and the cross is bundled over at the far post and is put over the goal line with a little help from the post. 1-0 for Ludogorets after 12 minutes. Must say the free kick was very soft as the ball hit the arm in front of the body of the Arsenal player. Against the run of play but it gave the home team a lift. And hardly two minutes later Ludogorets counter, the striker goes past Gibbs and his low cross is put over the goal line. 2-0 after 15 minutes. That is a cold shower. A bit like in Liège a few years ago when we were behind 2-0 after some 10 minutes.
But Arsenal trying to come back a ball to Özil on the left flank a cross and Xhaka with the shot. GOAL!!!! 2-1 after 21 minutes. Özil managed to keep the ball in play and Xhaka from around the penalty spot with a low finish.
Arsenal with most of the ball but Ludogorets defending in numbers. But they get a corner that is whipped in dangerous but goes past everyone. Arsenal still 2-1 behind after 30 minutes.
Ramsey a bit rusty and having problems with the precision of his passes, but good vision. Alexis with a good pass to Gibbs but a defender comes in between his pass to Giroud for a corner. A tackle from behind on Alexis by our own corner flag results in a yellow card for Minev. Özil with an attempt of a volley but a defender can block the shot. But a minute later Ramsey on the right flank a hanging cross to the middle and there is Giroud! GOAL!!!! 2-2 after 42 minutes. A lovely cushioned header over the keeper to level the score.
And that was the score in this match after 45 minutes. Ludogorets scored with their first two shots on goal and then it was a long way for Arsenal to fight back. But they did and showed character.
Gibbs being cought late when he crossed a ball but the referee missed that completely and he stayed on the floor holding his shoulder. That doesn’t look good. But it looked that he could continue. Another studs on the achilles is spotted this time but no card shown by the ref. A lovely ball from Xhaka finds Özil in space on the right flank but his cross is cut out by a defender. The ref seems to be going down the Atkinson route by not allowing anything from Arsenal players when it comes to being physical. Arsenal with most of the ball but not really forcing many open chances. The ref showing a yellow card against Coquelin who once again was punished for a ridiculously called handball. The ball was kicked against his elbow from 30 cm out. The ref now really calling everything against Arsenal. Still 2-2 after 60 minutes.
Arsenal get a corner but it is cleared and Ludogorets counters with 5 man but Ospina is on hand to stop the low shot. Ludogorets now get a free kick when one of their players just slipped….. Now this is getting a bit ridiculous. Ospina showing his worth again when a runner behind the defence is alone on goal but he blocks the effort. Ramsey then can’t get his foot around the ball and Xhaka then commits a counter attack stopping foul that earns him a yellow card. Jenkinson going in the book also as the ref now wants to give everyone a yellow card it seems. Alexis just can’t control a pass from Xhaka and the keeper is first on the ball for Ludogorets.
After 74 minutes Oxlade-Chamberlain comes on for Ramsey. So far we missed the running on the flanks a bit that made us so effective in the first match against them. A Ludogorets player holding his head when he was slightly touched on his shoulder. Oh well anything for the point I think. This ref simply not allowing anything from any Arsenal player. Are you Atkinson in disguise?
The Ox with a slicing effort after an Özil cross that went wide. Elneny came on in the place of Xhaka after 86 minutes. Arsenal won the ball back in their own half by Giroud, the ball came to Elneny who with his first touch released Özil who went one on one with the keeper, rounded him and then had to round another 2 defenders but did it oh so calmly and passed the ball over the goal line. GOAL!!!! 2-3 afther 88 minutes. What a cool finish.
Alexis went off after 89 minutes and Iwobi came on. Arsenal escape a late equaliser after a corner that floats around in the penalty area for a moment. But then the ref makes a end to the match. Arsenal made it hard for themselves or credit for Ludogorets for scoring with their first two shots.
But this team has character and one Mesut Özil. With the result in the other match where PSG could also only win at the end against a 10 man Bazel this means that Arsenal and PSG are certain of going to the knock out stages.