DORTMUND, Germany, September 14th – Dortmund’s Croatia midfielder Ivan Perisic came off the bench to score a late equaliser which gave the hosts a 1-1 draw with Arsenal in their opening Champions League clash on Tuesday.
After Arsenal captain Robin van Persie’s first-half strike had put the Gunners ahead, the 22-year-old Perisic came off the bench with 20 minutes left to finally convert one of Dortmund’s string of chances.
Despite passionate support at their 65,000 sold-out Signal Iduna Park stadium, it was not until the 88th minute that the hosts finally broke the visitors defence.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was banished to the stands as he serves the first of his two-match Champions League ban and his side defended doggedly as the hosts had 22 chances compared to the Gunners’ eight.
“To defend with such determination is a high quality skill and I don’t think many teams will come here and get a result,” said Arsenal assistant coach Pat Rice, stepping in for Wenger.
“Of course, we would have loved to have got the win here, but you can argue a point apiece is a good result.”
Dortmund are back in the Champions League after an absence of nine years while Arsenal are competing in the tournament for the 14th successive season and the difference in experience showed.
“It was a great match, but unfortunately that is the way football is sometimes,” said Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp.
“We played really, really well over 90 minutes: we were cheeky, we were brave and at the end we got our reward.”
Wenger named three new signings in his starting line-up in Germany defender Per Mertesacker and Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta with Israel’s Yossi Benayoun playing just behind van Persie.
Russia midfielder Andrey Arshavin, who scored in the 1-0 Premier League win over Swansea last Saturday, started on the bench.
Arsenal have been plagued by injuries at the start of the season and their 8-2 hammering at Manchester United a fortnight ago had dented confidence.
Likewise, Borussia came into the game lacking form after last Saturday Hertha Berlin inflicted Dortmund’s first home defeat in over a year.
Dortmund’s teenage German star Mario Goetze came back into the midfield after being suspended for the Hertha defeat and put in some slick passing.
Despite dominating the first 25 minutes, Dortmund found themselves 1-0 down at half-time as Arsenal snuffed out the hosts early chances and then converted one of their few chances.
In the first 11 minutes alone, Dortmund’s Japan star Shinji Kagawa fired over with only the goalkeeper to beat and Polish striker Robert Lewandowski had a chance cleared off the line.
Having weathered the storm, Arsenal began to assert themselves and Van Persie had a good chance saved when he beat the defence and the flag stayed down on 33 minutes.
But there was no mistake when his second clear chance arrived as Theo Walcott’s pass split the defence and the Dutchman picked his spot perfectly to drill his shot past goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller on 42 minutes.
The hosts luck refused to improve over the break and with an hour gone they had yet to test Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny before Perisic spared their blushes with time almost up.
Arsenal host Olympiakos at the Emirates Stadium on September 28 in their next Group F match, while Dortmund are at Marseille the same night.