Robert Lewandowski’s late winner for Borussia Dortmund at the Emirates ended Arsenal’s flawless start to their Champions League campaign and threw Group F wide open, just as Fernando Torres marked his 100th Chelsea start with two goals in an impressive win at Schalke to go top of Group E.
Arsenal were more than a match for last season’s beaten finalists for long spells but Lewandowski demonstrated the ruthless streak that was missing when Poland faced England in last week’s decisive World Cup qualifier at Wembley with a clinical finish eight minutes from time.
The pain of defeat was increased as Arsenal will surely feel Lewandowski was lucky to still be on the pitch following an earlier elbow on Laurent Koscielny. He was fortunate the offence escaped the notice of Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson as a red card would also have ruled him out of Arsenal’s forthcoming visit to Dortmund.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan gave Dortmund an early lead but Arsenal showed real character to battle back into contention and equalise through Olivier Giroud before half-time.
Group F was always touted at the closest in the Champions League and one glance at the table confirms this is the case, with Arsenal, Dortmund and Napoli now all on six points, with the Gunners top courtesy of their head to head record.
It made it an unhappy 64th birthday for Arsenal manager Arsenal Wenger. The Gunners still face hazardous trips to Dortmund and Napoli – but they can also take great heart from many aspects of their performance.
Arsenal were without midfielder Mathieu Flamini, who suffered concussion against Norwich City, and they missed him as Dortmund’s pressing game held sway in the opening moments.
It is the hallmark of Jurgen Klopp’s side, allied to plenty of natural talent, and Arsenal found it impossible to control midfield and play the passing game that has swept them to the top of the Premier League.
Dortmund’s relentless pressure on the ball paid off after 16 minutes when Aaron Ramsey, outstanding so far this season, was caught in possession and when Lewandowski fed Mkhitaryan, the man who was a £25m summer transfer target for Liverpool, fired past Wojciech Szczesny from the edge of the area.
It was a deserved reward but, to Arsenal’s credit they managed to wrestle control back from the impressive German side and make an impact of their own as the interval approached.
Dortmund defender Mats Hummels showed superb positioning and anticipation to station himself on the line behind goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller to clear Tomas Rosicky’s shot off the line – but it was defensive confusion that led to Arsenal’s equaliser five minutes before half-time.
Weidenfeller and Neven Subotic were involved in a mix-up as they moved to clear Bacary Sagna’s cross, leaving Giroud with a simple finish as he hammered the ball into the unguarded net.
Jack Wilshere needed lengthy treatment on an ankle injury in the first half after going down chasing the ball into the penalty area with Weidenfeller and it was no surprise when he was replaced by Cazorla after 57 minutes.
The Spaniard almost gave Arsenal the lead after 68 minutes after the first contribution of significance from Mesut Ozil. He found Cazorla on the edge of the area and his shot glanced off the angle of post and bar with Weidenfeller motionless.
Arsenal had controlled much of the second half but Dortmund always carried danger. And so it proved as Lewandowski restored their lead with eight minutes left, applying a perfect sidefoot finish to Kevin Grosskreutz’s cross.
Fernando Torres marked his 100th Chelsea start with two goals in an impressive win at Schalke to go top of Group E.
The Spain striker gave his side an early lead after Frank Lampard’s corner was flicked on by Branislav Ivanovic.
Torres was denied by the bar before capping an excellent display with a simple finish following a break involving Oscar and Eden Hazard.
Hazard added a third in the closing stages with a composed finish.
Schalke went close through Roman Neustadter but Petr Cech saved well on a night when Jose Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge side stamped their authority on the group.
The Blues might have started their campaign with a surprise home defeat to Basel last month, but the scars from that night have now well and truly healed.
They reach the midway point of the group stage with their destiny in their own hands, level on points with Schalke with three games still to play.
On a highly satisfactory night in Germany, Chelsea took an early lead through Torres’ first away goal in the competition since scoring in the Nou Camp against Barcelona in the semi-final in April 2012.
Mourinho’s side never looked back after going in front and, but for a spell towards the end of the first half, were never really troubled.
Torres’ opener was his 38th goal for the club he joined for £50m January 2011 – and he should have had his 39th in the 51st minute when his towering header from a curling Lampard free-kick rattled the Schalke bar.
Without injured Netherlands forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Jens Keller’s side struggled to turn possession into goals.
Cech was tested on his way to a second straight clean sheet in the competition, with his finger-tip stop from Neustadter’s header when Schalke were at their most threatening shortly before half-time the pick of his saves.
Benedikt Howedes squandered a great chance to equalise before Torres, who was impressive all night, doubled Chelsea’s lead after Hazard used his pace and strength to set up the former Liverpool frontman to slot home from close range.
Hazard then rounded off a fine night with the third – a terrific finish – in the 87th minute to leave the Schalke fans heading for the exits.