London: Schalke became the first foreign side to win at Arsenal in nine years as they took advantage of a pitiful display by Arsene Wenger’s side to take top spot in Champions League Group B.
Late goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay settled a game that the German visitors dominated throughout, tearing Arsenal’s insipid defence to pieces, with left-back Andre Santos particularly guilty of complacency as he was torn to shreds by Schalke winger Jefferson Farfan.
As Stan Kroenke and Arsene Wenger watched from the stands and boos rung out from the few fans who stayed in the ground until full-time, you got the sense that Arsenal’s AGM on Thursday night became even more interesting with a result that leaves the Gunners second in the group with three matches to play. They remain one point behind Schalke and three above third-placed Montpellier.
It was the manner of the display that will really grate with supporters who made little attempt to hide their frustration as Arsenal fell to their second home defeat in 28 European matches at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners had just one attempt on target in the entire match, and neither of those were noteworthy. While no-one could be said to have played well, Santos was particularly dreadful at the back while Gervinho’s decision-making highlighted the lack of confidence in their attacking play.
Schalke - who have lost just once this season - took control of the game from the very start, with winger Farfan constantly exposing Santos.
In the 14th minute, the German side had a legitimate claim for a penalty when Afellay was released by Farfan and went down under a challenge from Vito Mannone, only to be shown a yellow card for simulation. Replays suggested the Arsenal goalkeeper did make contact with the Dutchman’s foot.
Schalke began to believe in their chances of becoming only the second side to win a Champions League game at the Emirates Stadium.
Just before half-time, Huntelaar struck wide of the near post from six yards after meeting Atsuto Ushida`s cross when he should have scored.
The second period started in the same manner, Farfan again breezing past Santos and squaring for Schalke captain Benedikt Howedes, who made a mess of his attempted shot and blazed over the crossbar.
As the frustration of the Arsenal fans grew, so did the desperation of the players, with Gervinho booked for an outrageous dive as he tangled with substitute Jermaine Jones.
In the 76th minute, Schalke finally scored the goal they deserved and Arsenal were punished for their carelessness.
It was far too easy for the visitors. Afellay was allowed to head unchallenged 25 yards from goal to Huntelaar, who was played onside by Santos and smashed the ball low past Mannone.
Four minutes before full-time, Schalke again struck on the break and Santos was again left chasing Farfan’s shadow before the Peruvian crossed for Afellay to slot home from inside the six-yard box. Too easy, too good.