Arsenal 4 CSKA Moscow 1
When Mesut Ozil is in the kind of mood he was last night, there is little anyone can do to stop him.
CSKA Moscow found that out the hard way as they were picked apart by the German on the way to Arsenal taking a resounding 4-1 lead into the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final next week.
Arsenal were comprehensive winners against their Russian opponents last night.
Arsene Wenger’s side were able to cut them open at will in a blistering opening 35 minutes that saw them race into a 4-1 lead thanks to braces from Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette.
Aleksandr Golovin’s free-kick to momentarily make it 1-1 was the only blip during a first-half that reminded Arsenal supporters of how potent their side can be.
“I think we have done enough of a job tonight, there was a good pace in the first half, the two teams gave everything which is why is was such a spectacular first half,” Wenger said. “Second half the aim was not to concede, we did that and also had loads of opportunities that we didn’t take.”
When Arsenal put in performances like this you forget about the smattering of empty seats at the Emirates and the rumblings about Wenger’s future, and instead you simply enjoy the attacking talent.
At the heart of it all was Ozil and the fact he assisted three of Arsenal’s four goals was a testament to how much he ran the show. Truth be told, the alarm bells were ringing when the CSKA team was announced an hour before kick-off with the three centre-backs named the same as when Arsenal last took on the Russian side in 2006.
The trio of Aleksei Berezutski, Vasili Berezutski and Sergei Ignashevich now boast a combined age of 108 — and it showed.
Within 10 minutes Arsenal were ahead after the first of many slick-passing moves last night. Jack Wilshere set Ozil in the middle, who fizzed a ball out wide for Hector Bellerin. The Spaniard’s swiftly drilled cross found Ramsey, who fired the ball home.
From there it looked like the floodgates would open, but Arsenal’s defensive frailties were keeping CSKA interested and they were level after 15 minutes thanks to Golovin’s beautifully curled free-kick.
It was a goal that stunned the Emirates and when Ahmed Musa squandered a good chance shortly after, a groan of annoyance reverberated around.
It was to be short lived, however, as Arsenal took back control of the match with a blistering passage of play before half-time.
First, Ozil won a penalty after Georgi Schennikov clumsily brought him down and Lacazette promptly slotted the ball home.
CSKA may have been unhappy with the awarding of that spot kick, but they could have no complaints about Arsenal’s third just before the half hour mark.
Again Ozil was at the centre of it as he picked out Ramsey with a delicately lofted-ball. With goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev rushing out towards him the Welshman’s options looked limited, but he deftly flicked the ball over him with the outside of his boot.
✅ Two for @aaronramsey
✅ Two for @LacazetteAlex
✅ One big advantage to take to Moscow
Come the 35th minute it was 4-1 Arsenal as Ozil — yes him again — picked up another assist as his cross found Lacazette in the box to score his second of the night.
If CSKA were hoping for reprieve after the interval, they were sorely mistaken.
Instead they should have leaked their fifth of the night just after the break, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan wasted another Ozil through-ball.
Arsenal were running riot and Ramsey twice wasted good chances to secure his hat-trick before the hour.
With a quarter of the game left the Gunners pushed for a fifth goal that would kill the tie and they should have had it when Ozil slid in Alex Iwobi, but the substitute fluffed his lines.
In the end there was no fifth goal, but a first European semi-final for Arsenal since 2009 looks on the cards.
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