ARSENAL took advantage of an early red card for Hamburg goalkeeper Sascha Kirschstein, and the penalty that went with it, to clinch victory in the impressive AOL Arena, although Tomas Rosicky’s first goal since arriving at Highbury in the summer proved to be the winner.
Despite missing injured captain Thierry Henry, the Gunners produced a controlled display.
Having lost last season’s Champions League final to Barcelona following the early dismissal of Jens Lehmann, there may have been an element of justice to Arsenal profiting in such a way, although their appeared little contact from Kirschstein on Robin van Persie when the Dutchman skipped past him in the area after only ten minutes.
Gilberto put Arsenal ahead with the resultant spot kick, beating substitute goalkeeper Stefan Wachter,
The Hamburg faithful were incensed, and a deafening whistle rang around the stadium every time the Gunners were in possession.
Rosicky made progress down the left, and cut the ball back to Van Persie, whose near-post flick was well kept out by Wachter. The Germans, like Arsenal, are without a win in their domestic league so far this season, but Vincent Kompany came closest to levelling things with a backward header from a corner that flashed across Lehmann’s goal.
Arsenal centre back Kolo Toure had picked up a knock to his thigh, and was replaced on 27 minutes by Justin Hoyte, with recent arrival William Gallas getting the chance to move to his preferred role at centre-back.
Arsenal began the second half brightly, midfielder Cesc Fabregas almost jinking his way through the Hamburg defence, but their appeared little threat to the scoreline prior to the 53rd minute, when Rosicky produced a goal out of nothing.
Van Persie fed Rosicky, some 25 yards out on the left. The Czech midfielder took a touch to set himself before unleashing a rasping strike into the top corner.
It was a fine strike indeed, reminiscent of those he netted for the Czech Republic in the World Cup this summer.
There was a scare at the end, however, when Hamburg’s Boubacar Sanogo pulled one back in stoppage time and the German side even threatened to snatch an unlikely draw.