Paris St Germain put themselves in the box seat to enter the Champions League knockout rounds as Group A winners after an Alex Iwobi own goal earned them a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Arsenal on Wednesday.
Arsenal, who like PSG had booked a last 16 spot, looked set to finish top of their group for the first time since 2011 after Marco Verratti’s comical own goal on the hour.
But they were denied when Lucas’s goalbound header in the 77th minute was deflected past David Ospina by Iwobi.
Edinson Cavani, who put PSG ahead as he had done in Paris in September when the sides drew 1-1, wasted several chances to earn the French champions victory late on.
It means PSG have 11 points from five games, the same as Arsenal, but have a superior head-to-head courtesy of away goals. They will guarantee finishing first if they beat Ludogorets in their final fixture, when Arsenal go to Basel.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was philosophical afterwards, saying finishing second would not necessarily be a burden for his side who have lost in the last-16 stage six seasons in a row.
“At the moment we are 90 percent to finish second,” he told reporters. “Will it be good or bad? You can’t guess because you have to wait for the draw. What is more disappointing is that we didn’t win the game.”
A point was no less than PSG deserved as they started and finished the game stronger than Arsenal, who are unbeaten in all competitions since losing to Liverpool in August.
“It was a terrific performance,” their coach Unai Emery, deprived of defender Serge Aurier after British authorities revoked his visa following an assault conviction, said. “I’m sure (Aurier) was pleased with how the team played tonight.”
Uruguayan Cavani had already had two sniffs at goal when he punished Arsenal’s lethargy in the 18th minute.
Thiago Motta had far too much time to pick a pass that sent Blaise Matuidi clear and his inviting low cross was swept home by the sliding Cavani for his 16th goal of the season.
PSG were composed in possession but were architects of their own downfall seconds before halftime.
Maxwell sloppily conceded possession and Mesut Ozil’s clever blind pass sent Alexis Sanchez free. The Chilean forward’s footwork proved too quick for the sliding Grzegorz Krychowiak who brought him down for a clear penalty.
Giroud, restored to the starting lineup after his late equaliser at Manchester United at the weekend, tucked the spot kick past Alphonse Areola.
Lucas hit the crossbar with a free kick early in the second half for PSG but Arsenal then enjoyed their best spell.
Having been gifted their equaliser Arsenal were thankful to the visitors again as they took the lead on the hour.
This time Aaron Ramsey’s shot was blocked and an attempted clearance by Marquinhos cannoned back off the shins of team mate Verratti past the helpless Areola.
Arsenal then sat back and PSG equalised when Lucas’s powerful header was turned in by Iwobi when Ospina had it covered. Iwobi was substituted immediately.
“It’s frustrating because Ospina was behind him,” Wenger said. “You have to take it on the chin and support him. Overall it was a fair result because they are very good side with top technical quality.”
It could have been worse for Arsenal. Cavani was clean through but his attempted chip went straight into the arms of Ospina and minutes from fulltime he glanced a diving header agonisingly wide of the post.