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Home Sport Football European

We survived a real scare, says Wenger

CSKA 2 Arsenal 2

By Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsenal edged into the semi-finals of the Europa League, but only after surviving a major scare as CSKA Moscow threatened a memorable comeback.

Leading 4-1 from the first leg at the Emirates, the Gunners appeared set for routine passage into the last-four, only for CSKA to outplay them in Russia.

Danny Welbeck's fifth goal in five games checked CSKA's progress after Fedor Chalov and Kirill Nababkin had pounced on Petr Cech parries to put the hosts within touching distance of an unlikely turnaround.

Aaron Ramsey scored in stoppage time to seal a 2-2 draw, sending Arsenal through 6-3 on aggregate.

Arsene Wenger accepted his team were well off the pace in the first period.

"We were a bit surprised by the intensity of the game and were not at the races in the first half," he said. "We were a bit on the ropes, but we had a good response. We were better organised in the second half than the first - our distances were too big.

"We have players who can always score and once we scored for 2-1 it was a big blow for them and they didn't recover."

The Frenchman also admitted Atletico Madrid looked like the team to avoid in today's last-four draw.

"They are the strongest on paper, but let's just play well against the team we get," he said.

Welbeck and Laurent Koscielny acknowledged the Gunners had had a tough time in Russia, but were pleased to get the job done.

Welbeck said: "As you've seen in Europe this week, it's difficult when you've got the advantage from the first game. But we stuck through."

France defender Koscielny said: "That was not the plan (to sit back). We missed a lot of movement, to be available for our team-mates. They played well with the ball, they had some opportunities and they took them. We are happy because we came back in the game."

There was a mixture of sloppiness and nervousness in the opening half-hour, with Arsenal clearly keen not to ship an early goal.

While Shkodran Mustafi and Mohamed Elneny were particularly guilty of a couple of shaky moments, the hosts could not capitalise, despite Ahmed Musa's pace again causing problems.

CSKA took a deserved lead soon after losing playmaker Alan Dzagoev to injury, Chalov tapping home after Cech had done well to get down and keep out Nababkin's header but could only push the ball into the path of the young Russian forward.

Wenger made a tactical tweak at the interval, dropping Elneny into defence, but it made little difference early on as Nababkin was this time the beneficiary of a Cech parry.

Arsenal's breakthrough came seemingly out of the blue, Welbeck finishing superbly past Igor Akinfeev, who had not been forced into action all night.

Ramsey clipped home at the death to give Arsenal a result they barely deserved.

Belfast Telegraph

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