Schalke ends Arsenal's unbeaten run
Netherlands internationals Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay scored late goals as Schalke outclassed Arsenal to win 2-0 in the Champions League on Wednesday, lifting the team above the English side to the top of Group B.
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Sluggish in possession and impotent going forward, Arsenal was condemned to a first group-stage loss at home in more than nine years thanks to Huntelaar's low finish in the 76th minute and Afellay's far-post tap-in four minutes from time.
''We haven't played anything like we can ... we lack confidence on the ball for some reason,'' said Arsenal assistant coach Steve Bould, who took charge while manager Arsene Wenger completed his three-match touchline ban. ''If we'd escaped with a 0-0 draw, we would have been delighted.''
Arsenal's last home loss in the group stage of the competition came against Inter Milan in September 2003.
The loss ended Arsenal's perfect start to the competition and leaves Wenger with some worrying problems, with his team being outplayed in every department and only having one shot on target. The loss came on the back of a demoralizing Premier League defeat to Norwich on Saturday, bursting the early-season optimism at Emirates Stadium.
Schalke is on seven points - one ahead of Arsenal, which should still progress to the knockout stage despite this setback. The teams meet each other again in two weeks' time.
''I think Arsenal is still the favorite in this group,'' Schalke coach Huub Stevens said. ''When they have all their players fit, I think Arsenal is the best team.''
Fresh from winning at German champion Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on Saturday, the 2011 semifinalists took the game to Arsenal in front of their raucous, scarf-waving support.
They were first to almost every ball and more sprightly in possession, and the only surprise was that it took so long for the visitors to open the scoring. Arsenal was particularly open down its left as beleaguered fullback Andre Santos was given the runaround by Jefferson Farfan, who set up Afellay's clinching goal.
''We gave 100 percent,'' Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen said, ''but it's difficult at the moment because we're not creating enough chances to score goals.''
Huntelaar, who worked tirelessly up front, scored his ninth goal of the season for club and country but he should have opened his account far earlier.
He missed a sitter in the 43rd minute, turning a cross from Atsuto Uchida the wrong side of goalkeeper Vito Mannone's near post when unmarked eight yards out.
The Dutchman made no mistake with his goal, though, spinning to pounce on Afellay's headed flick-on and driving a low shot past Mannone before the goalkeeper could react.
Arsenal's defense, given precious little protection from its midfield, was badly exposed then and Afellay took advantage of more hesitancy at the back to convert the easiest of chances from inside the six-yard box from Farfan's cross.
By that time, Benedikt Howedes had slammed a great chance over the bar in the 50th when all alone in the box, and Afellay had been denied a penalty when referee Jonas Eriksson booked him for diving under a challenge from Mannone in the 14th.
By the time Arsenal's only shot on goal came - through Serge Gnabry in injury time - many of its frustrated fans had left the stadium in disgust.
''We haven't looked our best since the international break . we looked a bit tired and jaded,'' Bould said.