Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette both scored twice as Mesut Ozil put on a Europa League masterclass to overwhelm CSKA Moscow and all-but book Arsenal’s place in the semi-finals.
Arsene Wenger knows winning this competition is the only realistic way his side can get back into the Champions League as they sit 13 points adrift of the Premier League top four.
He named his strongest side, with Petr Cech returning in goal, and they showed far too much for their Russian visitors with first-half braces for Ramsey and Lacazette sealing a comfortable 4-1 win ahead of the return leg.
Reported Arsenal target Aleksandr Golovin had equalised for Moscow with a stunning free-kick but Viktor Goncharenko’s side were guilty of spurning several other decent chances and have it all to do in a week’s time.
Tweet of the match
Star man – Ozil
He may not have scored but Arsenal’s creative German was the standout performer and played a key role in all four of their goals. He was involved in the build-up for the opener, won the penalty for the second and then assisted Ramsey and Lacazette for the third and fourth.
Moment of the match
Golovin’s free-kick was impressive but Ramsey soon topped it. The Wales midfielder audaciously back-heeled the ball over CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev while in mid-air following Ozil’s clipped ball into the box. The goal, his second of the night, drew gasps of admiration from the Emirates crowd, which increased when replays were shown on the scoreboard.
View from the bench
The Europa League has become the only way of salvaging something from a disappointing season for Gunners boss Wenger and his side look on course for a comfortable passage to the last four to keep alive their hopes of silverware and Champions League qualification. Arsenal’s performance was commanding, albeit they did appear vulnerable at times and may feel they should have built a bigger aggregate lead. Frenchman Wenger will also be concerned by the injury suffered by playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who limped off in the second half with an apparent knee problem.
Lacazette has now scored 10 goals in his last 13 Europa League appearances. The Frenchman’s two strikes on Thursday were his first in the competition for Arsenal following his big-money move from Lyon last summer.
Arsenal: Petr Cech 6 (out of 10), Hector Bellerin 7, Shkodran Mustafi 7, Laurent Koscielny 6, Nacho Monreal 7, Aaron Ramsey 8, Granit Xhaka 6, Jack Wilshere 6, Henrikh Mkhitaryan 7, Mesut Ozil 8, Alexandre Lacazette 8. Subs: Alex Iwobi (on for Mkhitaryan, 61) 6, Mohamed Elneny (on for Wilshere, 74) 5, Danny Welbeck (on for Lacazette, 74) 5.
CSKA Moscow: Igor Akinfeev 5, Sergei Ignashevich 6, Vasili Berezutski 6, Aleksei Berezutski 6, Bibras Natcho 6, Aleksandr Golovin 7, Alan Dzagoev 5, Konstantin Kuchaev 6, Georgi Schennikov 5, Pontus Wernbloom 6, Ahmed Musa 6. Subs: Vitinho (on for Dzagoev, 65) 5, Georgi Milanov (on for Natcho, 74) 5, Khetag Khosonov (on for Musa, 83) 5.
Who’s up next?
Arsenal v Southampton (Premier League, April 8)
CSKA Moscow v Dinamo Moscow (Russian Premier League, April 9)