Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was understandably pleased to kick off what he believes is the hardest group of this year’s Uega Champions League with “three very important points” at Marseille.
Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey scored the all-important goals at the Stade Velodrome, where the Gunners rode their luck in securing a 2-1 win.
While the performance was not perfect, Wenger could not have asked much from his injury-hit side as they got an intriguing-looking group off to a winning start. Rafael Benitez’s Napoli and last year’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund complete the group.
“I thought it would be a tricky game here,” the Frenchman said. “Before the game I was conscious Marseille would be well focused.
“They know they are not favourites, they had nothing to lose and the French are dangerous when they are in that position.
“I knew it was important to get three points here if we want to have a chance. I said we needed 10 points at least so to start with three is good.”
Meanwhile Dani Alves sent out a warning that Barcelona can only get better after their 4-0 thrashing of Ajax. Lionel Messi replied to Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick from last week with one of his own.
Despite also maintaining a 100 percent record in La Liga and winning the Spanish Super Cup so far this season under new coach Gerardo Martino, Alves believes there is still plenty for the Spanish champions to improve on.
“I think it is fundamental to win as we are improving and correcting things,” he told reporters.
“We are in a transitionary period and we are still looking for our best level. It is difficult, but we are on the right track because we are winning.
“We are introducing new things to overcome the opponents, alternating the ideas we had but still with the objective of having possession of the ball.
“Right now we know what we lack. Sometimes we are not co-ordinated when we press, our lines are too far apart, but we are improving every day.”
Also modest was Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, who has apologised for his behavior in his side’s 2-1 defeat at Napoli, and admitted the incident had made him look like a “monkey”.
Klopp was sent to the stands shortly after his side had fallen behind to Gonzalo Higuain’s first-half header following a furious exchange with the fourth official.
But the man who led Dortmund to last season’s Champions League final was contrite afterwards.
“I made myself look like a monkey out there and that’s not on,” he told ZDF television. “I overstepped the mark and it was really pathetic of me.
“I’ve already apologised to the team, the referee and the fourth official. I got it wrong.
“I have to accept the blame for this red card, it was just stupid of me.”
Dortmund’s task was made even harder when goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller was also red-carded on the stroke of half-time for handling outside his area.
Napoli midfielder Lorenzo Insigne doubled the hosts’ advantage with a wonderful free-kick after 67 minutes with Camilo Zuniga’s late own goal all the visitors could muster in response despite a stirring rally in the closing seconds.
“Of course we’re all a bit down, but there are positives,” added Klopp.
“Without the red card, the injury (to Mats Hummels) and my dismissal, we could have got something here.
“This was probably the warning we needed.”