In a week where European football has been dominated by dramatic comebacks and shocks, Arsenal were given an almighty scare by CSKA Moscow as they booked a place in the Europa League semi-final.
Ahead of this match last night, Arsene Wenger and his players had witnessed on Tuesday how Roma had overturned a three-goal first leg deficit to topple Barcelona in their Champions League quarter-final.
They had seen too a day later how Juventus had come within minutes of achieving a similar feat against Real Madrid.
However, Arsenal appeared to not heed the warning as they stuttered over the line with a 2-2 draw to CSKA Moscow that saw them go through 6-3 on aggregate.
“They scored some good goals and we had tough pressure on us because if they score the third one we were out,” said Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny.
“It is our last chance to be qualified for the Champions League next season, so we will do our work until the end.”
It was a nervy night for the Gunners as goals from Fedor Chalov and Kirill Nababkin either side of half-time had the Russian hosts dreaming of a historic comeback.
However, Arsenal managed to fight back and goals from Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey in the final 15 minutes ensured they did not blow their own three-goal lead from the first leg to book a place in the semi-finals.
There they will face one of Atletico Madrid, Marseille, or Salzburg as Gunners fans will now be dreaming of a place in the final in Lyon on May 16.
Wenger named his strongest side and made six changes from the team that beat Southampton 3-2 in the Premier League on Sunday.
Crucially the heroes from the first leg Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette, who both scored twice then, were restored to the starting line-up and there was a spot too for creator-in-chief, Mesut Ozil.
In Ozil and his team-mates way was the same ageing CSKA back three deployed at the Emirates for the first leg, which Arsenal won 4-1. The defensive trio of Aleksei Berezutski, Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutski looked every one of their combined 108 years in London and were hoping for an easier night’s work at home.
They certainly got that in the opening 39 minutes as both sides struggled to get a grip on proceedings. CSKA pushed forward in search of a goal, while Arsenal tried to create on the counter. However both sides lacked quality and the game looked as though it was going to harmlessly meander to half-time.
But, six minutes before the break, CSKA made the break to give themselves a lifeline. Konstantin Kuchaev swung in a cross from the left and, when Nababkin’s header was saved by Cech, Chalov was there to tap in the rebound.
Arsenal were on the ropes and they survived another scare as the referee waved away a penalty shout as the ball struck Ramsey’s hand.
By the time the half-time whistle went it was a relief for Wenger and those in red, not least as Ramsey was struggling with an injury that meant he spent nearly five minutes off the pitch before the break.
The job for Arsenal now was to see out what had suddenly become a tricky 45 minutes, CSKA knew two more unanswered goals would be enough. They got the first of those within five minutes of the interval through wing-back Nababkin, who fired the ball home after Cech could only parry Golovin’s 30-yard shot straight into his path.
Golovin, recently linked with a move to Arsenal, was running the game and he almost scored the crucial third goal — only for Cech to tip away his dipping free-kick.
Arsenal had to respond and thought they had when Mohamed Elneny found the net before the hour, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.
CSKA threw everything forward in search of a winner. However, just when the Russian side could smell blood, Arsenal killed the tie through Welbeck’s goal in the 75th minute. The England international skipped past his man on the left, before playing a lovely one-two with Elneny and then firing the ball home.
The comeback was then complete in injury-time as Ramsey sped through the CSKA defence before chipping the ball over the goalkeeper.
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