IT wasn’t quite the explosion Mikel Arteta had promised but at least his Gunners continue to rumble on in Europe.
Now they have to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself in next week’s return leg at the Emirates.
Mo Elneny scored a rocket as Arsenal beat Olympiacos 3-1Credit: Reuters
The Gunners took total control of the Europa League tieCredit: Reuters
And more importantly, they dare not shoot themselves in the foot after crucial late goals from Gabriel and Mo Elneny spared the manager’s blushes.
This time it was Bernd Leno and Dani Ceballos who combined to present a gift-wrapped goal to Greek Champions Olympiakos.
And this was an error which could yet have massive repercussions if it leads to their elimination for Europe in next week’s return leg.
Ceballos had only just replaced Thomas Partey when he was caught out by an unexpected short pass from Leno.
His poor first touch was pounced on by Youssef el Arabi, whose finish was every bit as unerring as the one he applied to knock the Gunners out of this competition last season.
And it wasn’t as though Arsenal hadn’t already pushed their luck to the limit, with both Martin Odegaard and David Luiz fortunate to get away with surrendering possession in their own area before el Arabi’s 58th minute strike.
Time was when Arsenal fans used to taunt their Tottenham fans with chants of “It’s happened again.”
Martin Odegaard scored his first goal since joining on loan from Real MadridCredit: Reuters
The Norwegian produced a piece of magic to give Arsenal the lead in GreeceCredit: AP:Associated Press
But the boot will most definitely be on the other foot for Sunday’s North London derby as the Gunners seek to prevent their season from going into complete meltdown.
And they definitely won’t be counting their Europa League chickens yet after the painful experience of winning in Athens last season but going out on away goals at the Emirates.
But at least they can take comfort from the knowledge that they are firmly in control this time after those two late face savers.
Brazilian international Gabriel became Arsenal’s 15th different Europa League scorer this season when he sent a thunderous 80th minute header into the top corner.
And minutes later sub Elneny gave his team much-needed breathing space with the goal which puts clear daylight between these old enemies.
Youssef El-Arabi equalised for Olympiacos in the second halfCredit: Reuters
Gabriel fired in a brilliant header to restore Arsenal’s lead late onCredit: AFP or licensors
It was only two weeks ago that Arsenal were playing at ‘home’ in the Karaiskakis Stadium when they gave Arteta the fright of his life before edging their way past Benfica with a late winner from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The superstar striker has really got his mojo back in recent weeks after an unusually sluggish first half of the season.
And he was very nearly on the mark again when his sixth minute header was tipped against the bar by keeper Jose Sa via deflection off Sokratis.
The former Arsenal centre-half knew he was in for a busy evening and his task became even tougher when defensive partner Ousseyno Ba suffered a back injury during the pre-match warm-up.
And the Greek Champions were still sorting themselves out when they were opened up by Kieran Tierney before Odegaard scuffed his shot wastefully wide.
It was a bad miss from the Real Madrid loanee, who was fortunate that a loose pass on the edge of his own area wasn’t punished by Bruma minutes later.
Elneny’s thunderbolt made sure of the result in the last-16 first-leg tieCredit: Reuters
But those early errors were immediately forgotten when he opened his Arsenal account with a priceless away goal in the 34th minute.
Maybe it was his earlier tame effort which led to Olympiakos standing off Odegaard and inviting him to try his luck again from distance.
But there was no mistaking the quality of the finish this time as his shot flew past the startled Sa, who didn’t exactly cover himself in glory with his efforts to save.
Many Arsenal fans have been unhappy that Odegaard has been preferred to local hero Emile Smith Rowe in recent weeks.
So this was a timely vindication of Arteta’s judgment by the young Norwegian international.
Now he just has to get his selection right for the return game…and stop taking so many risks at the back.