Dinamo Zagreb 2 Arsenal 1
( Oxlade-Chamberlain og 24, Fernandes 58, Walcott 79 )

Arsène Wenger isn’t one who normally comes out and criticises the referee. Given that Olivier Giroud was sent off after a debatable couple of decisions in Arsenal’s 2-1 loss to Dinamo Zagreb, and the manner in which the home side used slowing down tactics as the ten man Gunners went searching for a late leveller, the Arsenal boss had no hesitation in looking at the way the match handling of Romanian referee Ovidiu Haţegan.

” The first yellow card was Giroud’s fault because he protested, even if there was no foul against him. After that he should have not protested to the referee. His second yellow card was completely unlucky to touch the guy. I do not understand the referee,” said Wenger.

The loss in Croatia mirrored the opening day loss to Brorussia Dortmund a year ago, even if the scoreline did not. Theo Walcott came off the bench to net a goal after 79 minutes to give Arsenal late hope, but by that time his side was a player light courtesy of Giroud’s sending off.

” I don’t think he saw the guy. It was completely accidental. It happened and I think at that moment it was not a second yellow. It has to be a foul on purpose and it was not on purpose. The referee should have given several yellows tonight based on that,” fumed Wenger. Giroud could and should have given Arsenal an early lead, but a combination of the woodwork and saves from Eduardo kept the Gunners at bay.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was unlucky to get the last touch on Josip Pivarić’s effort which David Ospina had initially saved, but he could do nothing about the rebound. More of a worry was the manner in which Junior Fernandes rose to nod in for a 2-0 scoreline. Walcott’s Thierry Henryesque finish gave the the Gunners hope, but they were unable to deny the Croatian side’s first group stage win for 16 years.

Wenger reflected on the consequences of the opening group loss.

” It’s difficult because we had a lot of the ball and we had early chances. We were a bit unlucky tonight. I believe the first goal was offside and then afterwards the sending off was very harsh. We have to look at ourselves as well because the second goal killed our game. We are good enough to defend corners like that well.

” Apart from that we had a lot of the ball when it was 10 against 11. They were committed, they defended well and sometimes I felt that they stopped us from gaining an advantage without being punished by the referee, especially on counter-attacks where we had to play 10 against 11 in one half. We were not at our best but neither was the referee tonight.”

With six changes from the win over Stoke, Wenger may have had an eye on Saturday’s lunchtime London derby trip to Stamford Bride, but that decision may have not prove to have been one of his best. However that remains to be seen, as does Arsenal’s European ambition.

” You know that when you don’t win the game you have to look at yourself and think, ‘I didn’t get it right’. I personally don’t believe that the players who came in had a bad game. It just didn’t work. We know we have to do that again. We were maybe a bit unlucky and maybe lacked cohesion or some competition in some situations. I have to analyse that. It’s very difficult to give you a definite answer straight after the game.

” Mathematically we can qualify without any problem if we can produce our performances that we want at home. We have had problems starting in every competition this season. We were slow starting the Premier League and now the Champions League. I’m confident that we can put that right in the next five games.”