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Cologne 1-0 Arsenal: Iwobi falls with Gunners in Germany - FCNaija

Europa League By: Collins Udeme | 23/11/2017

Super Eagles star Alex Iwobi was on parade as Arsenal suffered their first defeat of the 2017-18 Europa League campaign after going down 1-0 against Cologne in a Group H fixture at the Rhein Energie Stadium on Thursday to extend their winless streak on German soil, having lost their last three away games against German opposition.

The result means Arsenal stay top of group H with 10 points after five matches while Cologne leapfrog Bate Borisov to go third, level on points with second-place Red Star Belgrade who shared spoils in Belarus.

The Gunners who had scored in in each of their last 13 away games in European competition headed for the tunnel at halftime goalless but it was the away team who went in front after what appeared a soft penalty call for a Debuchy challenge on Sehrou Guirassy in the Arsenal box.

Guirassy stepped up and struck the penalty straight down the middle to hand Cologne a much-needed goal for the hosts, who needed to win to stay in contention for the last 32.

The result means Arsenal stay top of group H with 10 points after five matches while Cologne leapfrog Bate Borisov to go second, level on points with thrid-place Red Star Belgrade.

SETTING THE SCENE

Wenger made wholesale changes to the side that overpowered their noisy neighbours Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. David Ospina returned to replace Petr Cech in goal and in front of him in a back-three setup were Per Mertesacker, Rob Holding and Mathieu Debuchy.

Calum Chambers and Maitland-Niles were deployed in the right and left-wing back positions respectively to flank the central midfield partnership of Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin. Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck partnered Olivier Giroud in the attack

With three in the attack, Cologne showed they were going all out for maximum points against Arsenal. A win on Thursday keeps the Billy Goats in contention to reach the knock-out stages.

For their part, Arsenal only needed a draw in Cologne to confirm their status as group winners, with a ticket to the round of 32 already guaranteed.

FIRST HALF

Arsenal's Coquelin was the first to set his sight on a pop from a distance when he drilled one from a central position that went just past Horn's upright. It appeared that the Cologne goalkeeper pulled his hand away from that shot at the last second.

Cologne, roared on by a vociferous home crowd, attacked as Jhon Cordoba found space on the right side of the area. He whipped in a cross that looked like it might sneak in at the far post until David Ospina dived across to push behind for a corner.
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The away team again went close, this time with a weak header from Jack Wilshere which that was easily gathered by Horn. It went down as a chance because the Arsenal man connected with that from close range.

The home fans had been chanting and banging their drums throughout so far, looking to lift the Billy Goats into creating a few more chances than had on the night.

Coquelin should have put Arsenal in front on the half-hour mark after he juggled his way through before cracking a shot off the woodworks and away to safety to the delight of the home crowd.

Cologne who were missing some key players through injury for this game saw their captain Dominic Maroh taken off after he appeared to have done his hamstring after stretching to hook the ball away from Olivier Giroud as they challenged for a Danny Welbeck cross.

Arsenal enjoyed a large share of the possession but it was all part of Cologne's gameplan - the Billy Goats looked to swipe the ball and hit on the counter-attack whenever the opportunity arises.

SECOND HALF

After 15 minutes of action in the second period, a 60 minute penalty was all the Germans needed to break the deadlock. Cologne's winner was not without controversy as Sehrou Guirassy went down inside the box with Mathieu Debuchy in close attention.

The referee deemed it worthy of a penalty and Guirassy picked himself up to slam the spot-kick past David Ospina.

It was very much against the run of play. Indeed, one early save apart, Ospina had next to nothing to do. At the other end Arsenal probed for openings, but were denied by dogged defending and flawed final balls on an uneven surface.

Mohamed Elneny and Ainsley Maitland-Niles combined neatly to play in Jack Wilshere. But he was challenged just as he looked to apply the finishing touch.

Guirassy’s penalty gave Cologne something to cling onto and they defended even more gamely after that.

Horn saved Per Mertesacker’s header and Wilshere’s rasping drive, and Arsene Wenger threw on Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah in a bid to save the game. Nelson almost did the trick after a mazy run through the home side’s defence. But this was Cologne’s night.

Arsenal's final game in Group H of the Europa League is at home to BATE Borisov on Thursday, December 7. But next up it’s Burnley in the Premier League, at Turf Moor on Sunday.
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