PARIS, France- Alexis Sanchez struck with 12 minutes left as Arsenal came from behind to earn an unlikely 1-1 draw with Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League opener on Tuesday.
PSG had led virtually from kick-off, an Edinson Cavani header opening the scoring as the clock ticked onto 42 seconds at the Parc des Princes.
The goal was PSG’s quickest ever in the Champions League, but the French champions, and Cavani in particular, were guilty of failing to convert a succession of golden opportunities.
Chilean forward Sanchez made them pay as he netted the equaliser before both sides ended the game with 10 men after Olivier Giroud and Marco Verratti were each sent off at the death.
The result puts Arsenal in a strong position in Group A, with the other game in the section also ending in a 1-1 draw between Basel and Ludogorets Razgrad.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger sprung a surprise in his line-up as he selected David Ospina in goal and left first-choice Petr Cech on the bench. Meanwhile, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alex Iwobi both started with Theo Walcott missing due to injury.
PSG coach Unai Emery, under pressure after a poor start to the season, made a number of changes to his team too, including recalling Serge Aurier in defence, and the Ivorian was the source of the early opener.
With the Arsenal defence still settling, Aurier powered forward from right-back and delivered a cross that was met by a flick of the head from Cavani at the near post, enough to beat Ospina and find the net.
It was a dream start for the French champions, quarter-finalists in each of the last four seasons, and for Cavani as he seeks to step up and assume the responsibility of leading the attack following the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
– Stunning misses –
The Uruguayan has always racked up the goals, but he also has a habit of conjuring breathtaking misses and he squandered two golden chances to increase PSG’s lead before the interval.
First, after showing admirable determination to beat his man to the ball on the edge of the area, he rounded Ospina only to see his shot slip just wide of the post with the goal gaping in the 34th minute.
Then, with half-time approaching, he controlled a delightfully flighted pass into the box by Angel Di Maria only to tumble embarrassingly to the ground while attempting a spectacular finish with only the ‘keeper to beat.
Before that, only an alert piece of goalkeeping by Ospina prevented Di Maria from scoring direct from a wickedly delivered corner, and Arsenal were lucky to go in at the break just one goal behind.
PSG’s inability to convert their chances meant the Gunners remained in the game, and Ospina played his part by making decisive interventions in front of Cavani and Di Maria in the second half.
Alphonse Areola, playing in goal for PSG for the first time in more than three years, did not have a save to make until the 78th minute, when he blocked brilliantly from Iwobi’s close-range effort, Arsenal’s first shot on target all evening.
There was nothing he could do, though, to keep out the follow-up from Sanchez.
That goal ensured a share of the points, although both teams had chances to win, with Ospina again thwarting Cavani before Areola denied Iwobi at the other end.
Giroud and Verratti were both shown second yellow cards in stoppage time for a childish scuffle off the ball.