To say a team was outclassed has become a soccer cliché, but on rare occasions, the difference is undeniable. So it was today at the Westfalenstadion, where a Borussia Dortmund team at the peak of its counter attacking expertise embarrassed Arsenal. Outshooting its guests 23-5, BVB opened its UEFA Champions League campaign with a 2-0 win over the visiting Gunners, casting early doubts on the North Londoners’ chance of improving their fortunes in the this year’s tournament.
Eliminated in the Round of 16 four years running, Arsenal’s 2014-15 competition got off to an auspicious start despite staying even for 4r minutes, though Ciro Immobile’s goal just before halftime gave a dominant host its 1-0 lead. After the break, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang quickly doubled that advantage, with 2012-13’s finalists ending the game with a 7-1 edge in shots on target.
The victory leaves Dortmund alone at the top of Group D after a late Galatasaray goal earned the Turkish champions a draw with Anderlecht. BVB visits the Belgians in the next round of games (Oct. 1), while Arsenal hosts Gala.
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A lopsided first half that saw Arsenal outshot 15-2 nearly ended scoreless, but moments before intermission, one of Dortmund’s offseason reinforcements scored his first BVB goal. Found on a counter attack in the 45th minute, Immobile carried the ball half the field and to the right of the Gunners’ goal, splitting two defenders at the edge of the penalty area before rolling a right-footed shot inside Wojciech Szczesny’s far post. Leaving the Arsenal keeper flat-footed, the Italian international gave his team a 1-0 lead.
Moments after the break, BVB doubled its edge, again exposing Arsenal’s defense on the counter. Playing a ball from the center circle wide left to Kevin Grosskreutz, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang turned and sprinted toward the edge of the Gunners’ area, where Grosskreutz’s long pass allow him to round an out-of-position Szczesny. Stumbling, Aubameyang eventually regained his composure to loft a left-footed finish into the abandoned goal, giving BVB a 2-0 lead.
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The remainder of the game descended into a series of close calls and Arsenal errors. In the 57th minute, Aubameyeng hit the cross-bar after another defense-breaking counter. Later, pressure from the Gabon international nearly deflected a ball off Szczesny’s foot and into Arsenal’s net, while lackadaisical play from Mikel Arteta on a pass from the flank created an open chance for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Arsenal were able to create occasional chances for Danny Welbeck, footnotes in what as an otherwise meek performance.
It was nearly a worst case scenario for Arsenal. While getting points out of Westphalia was always unexpected, Arsenal now has reason to doubt whether they can meet the standard of Europe’s best. Today in Germany, the Gunners weren’t close.
For BVB, the performance was early confirmation. Though Robert Lewandowski has moved on, Jurgen Klopp still has enough weapons to do damage in this competition. Dortmund may be primed for another Champions League run.
Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller; Durm, Subotic, Sokratis, Schmeltzer (Jojic 79′); Mkhitaryan, Kehl (Ginter 45′), Bender, Grosskreutz; Immobile (Ramos 86′), Aubameyang
Arsenal: Szczesny; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta (Podolski 77′); Ozil (Oxlade-Chamberlain 62′), Ramsey (Cazorla 62′), Wilshere, Sánchez; Welbeck
Goals: Immobile 45′, Aubameyang 48′