Montpellar, France, Sep 19: Lukas Podolski and Gervinho scored as Arsenal came back from a goal down to win 2-1 at Montpellier in their Champions League opener on Tuesday.
All the goals came in a frantic opening spell. Montpellier midfielder Younes Belhanda won and converted a penalty in the ninth minute, Podolski equalized in the 16th and Gervinho put the Gunners ahead two minutes later.
Both Arsenal players had scored in the 6-1 demolition of Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday, and their form is encouraging for a team needing to find goals after Robin van Persie’s offseason departure to Manchester United.
“Podolski has made a real impact. I have to say I’ve not seen many finishers as good as him—ever, right foot, left foot,” said Arsenal’s assistant coach Steve Bould, who led the team as Arsene Wenger served the first game of a touchline ban. “He is a good trainer, a good boy and has really added something this year.”
Striker Olivier Giroud, playing against his old club, set up Podolski’s goal with a clever flick.
Montpellier hit back but winger Remy Cabella struck the crossbar in the second half.
“We looked a little bit tired in the second half, because it was very humid and the crowd got behind them,” Bould said. “It’s an intimidating place to come.”
Arsenal started with Giroud in attack as he sought a first goal for his new team since joining from Montpellier, the club he scored 21 league goals for last season.
Giroud acknowledged before the match to feeling the pressure of replacing Van Persie, but it was his excellent touch that created Podolski’s goal and settled Arsenal’s nerves.
“Giroud worked really hard for the team,” Bould said.
Two minutes later, Arsenal took the lead when Gervinho passed wide to Carl Jenkinson and then converted the right back’s cross with a neat finish at the near post.
Montpellier took the lead through Belhanda, who was fouled just inside the penalty area by center back Thomas Vermaelen and he coolly dispatched the spot kick over goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
“I’m frustrated because we could have got a point, but we’ll come away from this match a better team,” Belhanda said. “Arsenal wore us out, that’s also why we missed chances. We weren’t as good as them tactically, we should have closed them down more instead of letting them play too much. “
Mannone did better midway through the first half when he tipped Cabella’s powerful shot over the crossbar.
Montpellier started the second half aggressively to have Arsenal on the back foot for long spells, and winger Anthony Mounier broke clear but his tame shot bobbled wide in the 54th.
The home side continued to press for an equalizer and Cabella almost scored two minutes later. The winger’s superb chip beat Mannone but landed on the bar to give Arsenal a reprieve, as
Wenger’s team extended its unbeaten start to the season.
“We have had a decent start to the season and we have kept the run going so it’s important all round,” Bould said. “We have got great team spirit and I think that was evident tonight.
Everybody is digging in and things are looking okay.”