Arsenal through to semi-finals after Europa League scare in Moscow
Gunners recover from going two goals down against CSKA as strikes from Welbeck and Ramsey earn draw on the night and a 6-3 win on aggregate
12 April, 2018
CSKA MOSCOW 2, ARSENAL 2
(Arsenal win 6-3 on aggregate)
ARSENAL survived a scare in Moscow to book their place in the semi-finals of the Europa League tonight (Thursday).
Arsene Wenger’s men were exceptional in the first leg, opening up a 4-1 advantage thanks to two goals from each of Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey.
But, in a week of unforgettable European shock comebacks, fans were still very nervous ahead of the showdown at the VEB Arena – and they had every reason to be. They had seen Barcelona dumped out of the Champions League after throwing away a three-goal lead against Roma, and Real Madrid narrowly escape an equally embarrassing exit against Juventus.
Eager to avoid a restless night, Arsenal fans were hoping to see their team score an early goal. But it was CSKA who opened the scoring, minutes before the break, when Fedor Chalov poked home from close range after Petr Cech could only parry Kirill Nababkin’s initial header.
In the build-up to the game Wenger said that sport could have a “positive” influence on relations between Britain and Russia. Five minutes into the second half the Moscow fans probably agreed as they went 2-0 up through Nababkin – leaving the Russians needing just one more goal to knock the Gunners out of Europe.
The tension was finally lifted in the 75th minute, however, when Danny Welbeck played a one-two with Mohamed Elneny before guiding the ball home with the inside of his boot.
The away goal settled any nerves, and in injury time Elneny played in Aaron Ramsey, who casually clipped the ball over CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev to earn the Gunners a 2-2 draw on the night, and a 6-3 victory on aggregate.
Despite making it into the final four, captain Laurent Koscielny admitted that Arsenal’s performance wasn’t good enough.
“It was not the plan for the game to be so close,” he said. “I think we missed a lot of movement, to be available for our team-mates. We didn’t win the duels.
“They played well, had opportunities and took them. It put pressure on us – if they had scored again we were out.
“I am happy because we came back, but our performance was not enough for the stage of the competition.”
The draw for the semi-finals takes place tomorrow (Friday), with Arsenal joined by Atletico Madrid, Salzburg and Marseille.
Wenger admitted that he would like to escape being paired alongside favourites Atletico.
He said: “Ideally, we will avoid them, maybe they are the strongest on paper, but let’s play well against whatever team we get.”
ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Elneny, Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere (Chambers, 69), Welbeck, Lacazette (Iwobi, 77).
Substitutes not used: Macey, Mertesacker, Holding, Kolasinac, Nketiah.
CSKA MOSCOW: Akinfeev, Berezutski, Ignashevich, Berezutski, Bistrovic (Natcho, 72), Nababkin, Dzagoev (Vitinho, 38), Golovin, Kuchaev, Musa, Chalov (Milanov, 79).
Substitutes not used: Pomazun, Schennikov, Zhamaletdinov, Khosonov.