Cologne 1 Arsenal 0: Gunners secure top spot despite defeat
Arsenal secured top spot in Europa League Group H despite losing 1-0 at Cologne on Thursday, with the Germans keeping their chances of qualification alive as a result.
Arsene Wenger's men knew that a point would guarantee them finishing top of the group, but they were ultimately able to do so even with such a poor result against the side bottom of the Bundesliga, with BATE and Red Star Belgrade drawing 0-0 in the other match.
Arsenal dominated the first half and played some slick football as they created a significant number of chances, but they were frustrated by a combination of wayward finishing, Cologne goalkeeper Timo Horn and the post.
The match was similarly one-sided after half-time, but Arsenal found Cologne harder to break down.
And Cologne looked more willing to push men forward, an approach which then resulted in Sehrou Guirassy winning and converting a penalty just after the hour mark.
— 1. FC Cologne (@fckoeln_en) November 23, 2017
Unsurprisingly Arsenal poured men forward towards the end as they sought to make absolutely sure of their position of group winners and, although they failed to level, it did not matter as the result in Belarus did them a favour.
Proceedings were end-to-end early on and the home side went close to taking the lead - albeit fortuitously - in the sixth minute, as Jhon Cordoba's attempted cross needed to be tipped around the post by David Ospina.
Arsenal soon began to exert some control and Francis Coquelin sent a rasping 25-yard drive agonisingly past the left-hand post with 14 minutes on the clock.
Their next chance fell to Jack Wilshere shortly after, with the midfielder heading a Danny Welbeck cross straight into the arms of the grateful Timo Horn.
Coquelin went close for a second time with just over half-an-hour played, as the Frenchman latched on to Welbeck's pass into the left side of the area and smashed an effort on to the post.
And Welbeck had an opportunity of his own a few minutes later, bending a fine right-footed effort just past the right-hand post from the left side of the box.
Arsenal looked no less in control at the start of the second period and almost crafted a chance at the end of a brilliant move, as Wilshere found Olivier Giroud and raced on to a return pass into the box, only for Jorge Mere to make a vital last-ditch tackle.
But Cologne did start to offer a little more as the hour-mark approached and they took the lead in the 62nd minute.
3 - Arsenal have conceded three penalties in their last five away games in all competitions (v Watford, Manchester City and FC Koln). Punished.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 23, 2017
Guirassy played a clever one-two with Salih Ozcan on the edge of the area and darted into the box, before Mathieu Debuchy nudged him to the ground, allowing the 21-year-old to convert the resulting penalty.
Giroud nearly levelled 13 minutes from time when released into the box by Wilshere, but Timo Horn rushed out to put him off, clattering team-mate Jannes Horn in the process.
Arsenal put Cologne under significant pressure during the latter stages with substitute Eddie Nketiah and Wilshere wasting great chances, but the home side – who still have not won a league game this term – held on to a famous win which puts them level on six points with Red Star, whom they face away from home in their final group outing.