When the Vasil Levski National Stadium was opened to the public in the year 1953, there was hope that it would one day serve as a venue for European football. Named after the hero and revolutionary Vasil Levski, the stadium is one of the oldest in Bulgaria and has become a regular host to Champions League matches.On Tuesday, it served as the home ground of Ludogorets instead of their own home ground, Ludogorets Arena.
Due to crowd capacity and the inability to adhere to UEFA guidelines, the Levski stadium is the home stadium of Ludogorets in Europe this season.And the match on Tuesday didn’t disappoint as well. Ludogorets went ahead and took a two-goal lead. But as the match drifted towards the end, Arsenal tightened their grip and made a superb comeback to eventually win the match 3-2.
Jonathan Cafu and Claudiu Keseru were the goalscorers for the Bulgarian side, while Xhaka, Giroud and Ozil sealed the comeback.Here are five talking points from the exciting Champions League encounter…
#1 Arsenal’s comeback shows their newfound resolve
On another night, Arsenal might have lost the plot after they handed Ludogorets an early lead. However, this Arsenal team is of different mettle and on Tuesday night capped off an impressive comeback.Arsenal started off sluggishly and was duly punished. However, the second goal by the Bulgarian side within the space of 3 minutes seemed to stir something in the Gunners.
Summer signing, Granit Xhaka started the comeback, finishing off a fine cross by Mesut Ozil.Ozil’s cross evaded everyone in the box only to fall nicely in front of the Swiss midfielder. Xhaka, arriving late in the box swept in a left-footed finish after the Ludogorets defence went too deep.
After that, Arsenal was back in their familiar groove as they took control of the game. And right before the end of the first half, Giroud was on hand to head in the equaliser from a fine Ramsey cross. Giroud leaping high over the Ludogorets defence expertly finished off the move, as Arsenal went into the half-time with buoyant spirits.
#2 Ludogorets do the early running
After a 6-0 hammering to the Gunners in the reverse tie, the Bulgarian side seemed ready to make amends as they raced to an early 2-0 lead.That proved to be a false dawn as Arsenal took control of the game, recovering from their disastrous start to find their familiar rhythm.
One of the visuals during the game was the Arsenal bench covering themselves with blankets due to the cold. They might as well have taken the time to catch up on their forty winks as total domination by the Gunners prevailed, thereafter.Arsenal coach, Arsene Wenger, when questioned about the dismal start, replied appropriately, “We were caught cold”.
However, there are some positives for the Bulgarian side as this was the second time that Ludogorets managed to score more than once in the Champion’s League.With the Gunners defence all over the place in the opening quarter, Ludogorets painfully reminded the Gunners of their defensive frailties. Taking advantage of some lazy defending for the first goal and chaotic defending for the second goal helped raise hopes of an upset, but that was not to be
#3 Giroud makes his case for the London derby
Arsenal’s woes in November have been a hallmark of the past few seasons and they seemed intent on sticking to that script. Lately, though, this Arsenal side has shown a more resilient character and the summer signings of Xhaka and Mustafi have played their part in solidifying the team.
However, on Tuesday night, when the team was named, Giroud was the focal point of the attack. Although the Frenchman scored two goals with his first two touches at the weekend, there have been still doubts about his fitness.Instead, Giroud showed Arsenal they have a different dimension to their game. With a testing run of fixtures to come in the month of November, the Frenchman again made his case with a superbly taken goal.
Injuries and suspensions may have restricted his appearances this season but his lethal finishing and overall teamwork is an asset that Wenger admires. While Sanchez does offer a lot of mobility upfront, Giroud’s hold up play brings the other midfielders into play.Giroud will hope that his current form of 3 goals in 2 games will give Arsene Wenger a thing or two to think about.
#4 Ludogorets concentration lapses will haunt them
Georgi Dermendzheiv must have been left fuming in the manner they conceded the winner. Their midfield was dispossessed way too easily in the dying moments and a simple ball played over the Ludogorets defence by Arsenal was punished ruthlessly.
However, Ludogorets can take heart from their display. They had 4 shots on target and were able to convert two of them. And, in spite of their wayward running at times, they still managed 42% possession in the game.Ludogorets currently are tied for first place in their domestic league and have a game in hand.
They welcome CSKA Sofia this weekend and will hope to avoid a repeat of the result on Tuesday night. Their remaining two fixtures in the Champions League against PSG and Basel, still affords them the opportunity to continue their campaign in Europe via the Europa League.
Hopefully, the Bulgarian side will be able to take this chance.
#5 Ozil’s calm finish caps off a mad night for Arsenal
Ozil’s’ goal scoring form has been one of the highlights for Arsenal this season. The German is on track to break his goal tally of last season having scored seven already this season.
His cross to set up Xhaka for the opening goal was capped off by an impressive finish, calmly lobbing the keeper to keep hold off the ball and then dribbled past the sliding defenders to plant a finish that sealed the Arsenal victory.Arsene Wenger, before the game, had stressed on the fact that they had to top the group in order to avoid tougher opposition in the knockout stages.
After the game, speaking to BBC Radio 5, the veteran Frenchman stated, “We need to maintain the quality of our results until the match against Paris St-Germain and then hopefully we will be in a position to finish top of the group.”
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