Arsenal passed up the opportunity to assure themselves of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League as group winners after being held to an entertaining 2-2 draw at home to Paris St Germain.
Both sides were already assured of qualification to the latter rounds but victory at the Emirates Stadium would have been enough for the Gunners to top the group and theoretically draw a more comfortable tie in the round of 16.
Arsenal again fought back from behind as an Olivier Giroud penalty and a Marco Verratti own goal cancelled out Edinson Cavani’s opener but a late Lucas Moura header, steered past David Ospina by Alex Iwobi as he attempted to head clear, handed PSG a 2-2 draw.
That means, after the 1-1 draw in Paris back in September, it is Unai Emery’s side who top the group – knowing a victory at home to minnows Ludogorets in their final fixture will see them advance in first place.
While they would rather face such a predicament than be in the same situation as their fierce local rivals Tottenham, who are already eliminated with a game still to play, this will feel like Groundhog Day for Arsenal supporters – with boss Arsene Wenger admitting he feels “guilty” when Arsenal progress in second place and then land a tie against one of Europe’s elite clubs.
This looks like being the fifth year in succession they have finished second in the group and they have then failed to progress past the round of 16 in the previous six seasons.
Cavani opened the scoring inside the first minute when the sides met in Paris and then went on to miss a number of chances to put the game to bed.
But the Uruguay international made no mistake as he slid in to turn Blaise Matuidi’s low cross past Ospina to put PSG in front, as Wenger’s assertion that his side have been “stuttering” of late evident for all to see.
The Gunners offered very little in the first half but they were all-but gifted an equaliser on the stroke of half-time as Grzegorz Krychowiak was robbed of possession on the edge of his own box and, when Mesut Ozil slid in Alexis Sanchez, the Poland international fouled the forward to concede a penalty, with Giroud keeping his cool to slot home the leveller with his fifth goal in as many games.
Lucas came close to re-establishing the visitors’ lead just after the interval, picking himself up from a Laurent Koscielny foul to curl a free-kick onto the top of the crossbar.
Giroud had a shot deflected clear as Arsenal looked to present more of an attacking threat but it was an unfortunate own goal which put them ahead.
Carl Jenkinson’s low cross came to Aaron Ramsey, whose effort was cleared by Marquinos only to cannon back off the unwitting Verratti and past Alphonse Areola.
With Arsenal looking ever-more comfortable, they were rocked when Lucas headed Hatem Ben Arfa’s corner past Ospina courtesy of a deflection off Iwobi.
Wenger threw on Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in search of a winner but PSG saw the game out and now appear odds-on to maintain their spot at the head of Group A.