Dominating for 59 minutes – and then the mistake, followed by panic, wobble and confidence loss, recovery, and success.
This was the eleventh meeting between the sides – both winning 5 a-piece. Arsenal went in with no clean sheet in eight games. Gabriel and Bellerin returned to the starting line-up from the previous game.
Yan M’Vila – one of the hundreds of virtual Arsenal transfer links which never happened had to switch late from midfield to defence for the home team. El Arabi who knocked Arsenal out, last time was up front. Sokratis who played 69 times for Arsenal was in central defence. And the tricky Frenchman Valbuena was in midfield. Only two sides including Porto have stopped the Greeks from scoring at home this season. They have only been beaten twice in 22 games.
Arsenal started well. Tierney pulled it back for Odergaard in the second six-yard box, but he fluffed it wide.
But soon he was on the attack sending Bellerin away. The Spaniard floated it in and Aubameyang’s header hit Sokartis on the shoulder with Sa tapping it spectacularly onto the bar.
Tierney delivered the third cross in 13 minutes – this time lower and faster but Saka missed it.
Arsenal were clearly the better technically and Olympiakos perpetrated niggly fouls. One led to Luiz firing straight at Sa from a free kick.
An Odergaard mistake led to the Greek side’s first chance – a shot straight at Leno. M’Vila, who always had a hard-man reputation, scythed Saka down and got a yellow.
Arsenal pressed well for possession but generally after getting it back, gave it away several times.
Odergaard sent Aubameyang clear, he tried to cut back but got tackled.
But then the Norwegian took it and advanced to around 25 yards out and let fly. It had lots of pace and swerve and Sa flapped as it and it hit the back of the net hard. Third time lucky. The Norwegian’s first for Arsenal and the 35th different nationality to score for the men’s side and the 14th different scorer in this season’s Europa League.
But current Arsenal wouldn’t be Arsenal without an outbreak of suicidal defending.
David Luiz got caught turning back in the area and Masouras had a clear chance to score. All he had to do was bend it into the mainly unguarded net – but he wasn’t expecting such Greek gifts – and sent it high and wide.
A Saka break led to Willian cutting inside – but he hasn’t scored in 28 Arsenal games, and his shot was deflected harmlessly wide.
Fortunis and Holobas, the ex-Watford player, came on for Valbuena and Bouchalakis. Partey went off on 55 with Ceballos on.
You don’t know what you’ve got until its gone – Arsenal looked like a linchpin had been removed.
Ceballos immediately mis-passed to Aubameyang.
And then received a difficult pass out from Leno – a prison pass, as four Olympiakos players were nearby and he was pick-pocketed by El-Arabi, who coolly placed his shot past Leno and into the net.
Arsenal’s structure disintegrated. El-Arabi had a chance to make it 2-1 from a low cross but it was deflected for a corner thanks to the diving Bellerin.
But after a sticky twenty-minute period, Willian took a short corner and Gabriel came in and rose above M’Vila to find the top corner. A moment of physical leadership to turn the tide.
Pepe, Smith Rowe and Elneny came on for Saka, Odergaard and Willian.
With eleven to go, Elneny took it in midfield, moved forward and unleashed a swerving shot. Sa dived but touched it onto the post and in. Glad for an unsung hero.
Lacazette came on for Aubameyang with three minutes left and set up a chance for Pepe which came to nothing.
Odergaard said: “It is a big win to get three goals away from home. I am very pleased and also the way we fought back.
“It shows the spirit in the team. We react and know we have to get a goal.”
Mikel Arteta said: “We started really well, were dominant and created chances in first half. But we gave them two chances. In the second half we started well, let them score and then scored. We have to keep stopping errors. It is about when you play the ball – not about decision making. It is about identifying when we have to act.
“In Europe anything can happen. We had some of the best moments this season – the rhythm, quality and how we linked with each other.”
Olympiakos:1Malheiro de Sá, 72Lala, 15Papastathopoulos, 6M’Vila (Booked at 22mins), 45Reabciuk (Substituted for Holebas at 45’minut, es)27Tué Na Bangna (Substituted for Randjelovic at 59’minutes), 5Bouchalakis (Booked at 37mins), 4Camara, 19Masouras (Substituted for Androutsos at 86’minutes), 28Valbuena (Substituted for Fortounis at 45’minutes), 11El-Arabi (Substituted for Hassan Mahgoub at 77’minutes)
Arsenal: 1Leno, 2Bellerín, 23David Luiz, 6Gabriel (Booked at 43mins), 3Tierney, 18Partey (Substituted for Ceballos at 55’minutes), 34Xhaka, 7Saka (Substituted for Pépé at 82’minutes).11Ødegaard (Substituted for Smith Rowe at 82’minutes), 12Willian (Substituted for Elneny at 82’minutes), 14Aubameyang (Substituted for Lacazette at 88’minutes)