Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Champions league: Slick Arsenal take Euro survival down to final battle

Arsenal 3-0 Dinamo Zagreb

By Glenn Moore

Arsenal staved off the prospect of Thursday night football for at least another fortnight with a performance so dominant it made one wonder how on earth they found themselves on the brink of demotion to the Europa League in the first place.

That fate can now be avoided if they win by a margin of two goals or more in Greece on December 9 against Olympiakos.

A high-scoring one-goal win (3-2 or more) will also be enough. On the form Arsenal showed last night, it is very much possible.

Back in September, the Gunners somehow lost in Zagreb but last night, in north London, this was less a contest than an exhibition.

The result ceased to be in any doubt once Mesut Ozil marked another lustrous performance with a rare headed goal after 29 minutes.

As it was, another two goals from Alexis Sanchez were their only reward - though Arsene Wenger did have the bonus of Aaron Ramsey coming through the last half-hour.

Joel Campbell was the one unforced change from the team beaten by West Brom, the Costa Rican replacing Kieran Gibbs.

In addition, Mathieu Flamini returned for Francis Coquelin, the latest visitor to the treatment room.

Zagreb, sitting very deep, had begun to look comfortable as the half-hour approached. But then they made a mistake - they decided to venture out of their own half. The visitors had gone forward in rare numbers when Campbell nicked the ball to Santi Cazorla.

Initially, the Spaniard headed for his own corner flag, but he spun around, glided past three opponents, played a one-two with Hector Bellerin, slipped the ball to Ozil and continued advancing.

Ozil was tackled but Olivier Giroud seized the loose ball and gave it to Cazorla, who now released Flamini. He drove across the halfway line before giving it to Sanchez.

The Chilean cut back onto his right foot and bent a cross into the box where it was met by a diving Ozil.

It enabled Arsenal to relax, and disheartened Zagreb.

This was evident four minutes later when Goncalo Sigali tried to bring the ball out of defence but gave it straight to Nacho Monreal, who burst past him and squared for Sanchez to tap in.

As Zagreb collapsed, Ozil could have had a hat-trick before the break but was twice denied by Eduardo.

The Portuguese goalkeeper was just as busy after the break. Cazorla, then Giroud, were both denied before Arsenal eased back to a more containing approach.

This prompted some nerves among the home support which were not eased when Campbell sent a spectacular volley just wide of the post.

Fit-again Ramsey replaced Giroud with just under 25 minutes remaining, which drew great applause from the Gunners support.

Sanchez moved up front in the absence of the Frenchman and made an instant impact, latching onto Campbell's inch-perfect pass to round the keeper and make the three points safe.

Meanwhile, ten-man Bayern Munich eased into the knockout stages after demolishing Olympiakos 4-0 to secure top spot in Group F.

The German champions, who had Holger Badstuber sent off early in the second-half after a straight red card, were unstoppable in the opening 20 minutes, scoring three times.

Douglas Costa struck after eight minutes, Robert Lewandowski doubled the lead after 16 minutes and Thomas Mueller added another four minutes later as dazed Olympiakos found no answer to the continuous attacks.

Kingsley Coman headed in Bayern's fourth goal in the 70th minute but the result was never in doubt as the Germans moved up to 12 points in the group ahead of their final game at Zagreb on December 9.

ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerín (Debuchy 82), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla (Chambers 82), Campbell, Özil, Sánchez, Giroud (Ramsey 67).

Goals: Ozil 29, Sanchez 33, 69

Subs not used: Gibbs, Gabriel, Ospina, Adelaide.

D ZAGREB: Eduardo, Pinto, Sigali, Taravel, Matel, Machado (Coric 84), Dos Santos, Antolic (Henríquez 71), Pjaca, Rog, Fernandes (Soudani 57).

Goals: none

Subs not used: Musa, Sovsic, Pavicic, Mikulic.

Man of the match: Sanchez (pictured)

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph