Alexandre Lacazette, making his first start since January, and Aaron Ramsey netted doubles as Arsenal strolled to a 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow in their Europa League quarter-final first leg at the Emirates.
Arsenal made a blistering start to the game, and were in front as early as the ninth minute through Ramsey, but the visitors didn’t let their heads drop, and pulled level after Aleksandr Golovin curled a sublime free-kick into the top corner six minutes later.
Arsenal soon restored their lead after Mesut Ozil was clumsily brought down in the penalty area, with the spot kick converted by Lacazette in the 23rd minute, before Ramsey delightfully made it 3-1 five minutes later
It looked as though CSKA were in for a thrashing as Lacazette steered home a fourth in the 35th minute, but Arsenal couldn’t add a fifth, missing a host of second half chances to do so. Nonetheless, Arsenal comfortably saw a fifth successive victory in all competitions to put themselves on the verge of a first European semi-final in nine years.
Some home fans elected to stay away, with the stadium roughly 80 per cent full, but those in attendance saw their side almost take the lead as early on but Henrikh Mkhitaryan could only find the side netting.
The hosts did have the ball in the net in the seventh minute, but the assistant referee’s flag denied Ramsey. Two minutes later, the Welshman wasn’t to be denied as Arsenal edged in front.
Wenger is refusing to get carried away by Arsenal’s 4-1 win
Ozil threaded a fine pass through for Hector Bellerin, who just stayed onside, fired the ball across for the onrushing Ramsey, who steered the ball home.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as Laurent Koscielny needlessly gave away a free-kick 25 yards out, allowing Golovin the chance to fire for goal from 25 yards. He couldn’t have executed it better, leaving Petr Cech with no chance.
Petr Cech made only his second Europa League appearance this season, with David Ospina out and Matt Macey on the bench. Laurent Koscielny came in for Calum Chambers, Granit Xhaka was back in for Mohamed Elneny, Henrikh Mkhitaryan in for Danny Welbeck and Alexandre Lacazette started for the first time since January. For CSKA, Leicester loanee Ahmed Musa started at the Emirates.
Ahmed Musa, formerly of Leicester, then almost turned the match on its head, but missed the target after bursting into the box, before Ozil was felled in the box by Georgi Schennikov to earn his side a penalty to restore Arsenal’s lead, which Lacazette converted with aplomb. The additional assistant referee, behind the goal, seemed to make the decision.
Ramsey’s second, and Arsenal’s third, was nothing short of sublime. The pass from Ozil was inch-perfect, Ramsey, using the outside of his foot, then controlled a finish over CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev to delight the home crowd
CSKA were at sixes and sevens at the back, and soon enough Arsenal had a fourth, with Lacazette steering home his second of the game from the edge of the box after Ozil had again picked out his man.
Arsenal continued to hunt for more goals after the break, with Ramsey and Mkhitaryan both going close to netting a fifth for Arsenal. Ramsey almost completed his hat-trick late on, but saw his effort come out off the post. Nonetheless, it would take a seismic collapse for Arsenal to miss out on the last four from here.
Arsene Wenger: “We will focus on the second game. It’s not job done. It’s not over. We have to go there with the right focus and try to win the game.
“We are in the quarter-final, there is a long way to go, and we need to finish the job. We are not in the semi, so it’s too early to talk about winning it. We have suffered a lot recently, so that will help us to be really feet on the ground, humble, trying to do our job well.”
Arsene Wenger’s side have won three consecutive knockout games in European competition for the first time since 1999/2000, when they won four consecutive matches in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals and semi-finals.
This was the first time Arsenal scored 4+ goals in the first half of a European game since December 2004, when they netted four times against Rosenberg in the Champions League group stage.
Arsenal have scored 3+ goals in four consecutive games in all competitions; prior to this run, the last time they achieved this was back in January 2011 (a run of four games).
CSKA Moscow have now lost four successive European matches on English soil, shipping 10 goals in the process.
Aaron Ramsey has scored six goals in his last seven games in all competitions, as many as in his previous 36 appearances for the Gunners.
Man of the match – Mesut Ozil
European nights are made for Mesut Ozil. With that little bit of extra time on the ball, Ozil can pick his passes and carve teams open in the blink of an eye. Two assists, five key passes and movement CSKA simply couldn’t track – this was the very best of the Germany international.