A double from Aaron Ramsey took Arsenal into the group stage of the UEFA Champions League after a 2-0 win over Fenerbahce at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners won the first leg in Turkey and Ramsey first goal in the 25th minute rid the home fans of any nerves at kick-off.
Fenerbahce played some nice football in the second half, but Ramsey’s classy finish in the 72nd minute sealed his double and a 5-0 aggregate score for Arsenal in the Play-Off round.
Despite a comfortable aggregate lead, tensions were high around a nervy Emirates Stadium before kick-off and that was in part due to Arsenal’s collapse at home to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season.
That tension filtered down to the players as Wojceich Szczesny was forced into two saves in the first 12 minutes. The first one was a comfortable one when Raul Meireles fired a weak shot from 20 yards, but the second save could have been completely avoided by the Arsenal defence.
Moussa Sow ran at the Arsenal defence who allowed him plenty of space and Bacary Sagna’s failed clearance bounced back off Meireles and was goalbound, but the Gunners’ Polish goalkeeper pulled off a smart stop to keep it level on the night.
Arsenal kicked into gear and Theo Walcott came inside onto his left foot from 30 yards, but his shot was easily saved by Turkey’s number one, Volkan Demirel. Olivier Giroud was next to try his luck after smart feet from Santi Cazorla, but the French international got his curling shot all wrong and it ballooned into the stand.
Despite the slow start, it was the home side who added to their aggregate lead with the opening goal of the night in the 25th minute. Ramsey scored in Turkey last week and grabbed his first of the night after Lukas Podolski poked it forward for Walcott and the England international unselfishly laid it off for the Welshman to tap in. The nerves disappeared with the goals, and Arsenal already looked comfortably through to the next round.
Giroud was looking for his fourth goal in as many consecutive goals, but the former Montpellier striker was denied by Volkan again. Cazorla was instrumental again and slid it in for the forward to fire at goal from a tight angle, and the Fenerbahce goalkeeper did well to tip the ball around the post. Giroud should have looked across the box as Podolski and Walcott were waiting for a tap in.
Up the other end, Bruno Alves curled a free-kick wide from 30 yards before hitting the post just before half-time. Emmanuel Emenike slipped away from Sagna and raced into the penalty area, but his shot was touched onto the frame of the goal by Szczesny’s flying save. It was the closest Fenerbahce came to coming back into the tie and Arsene Wenger had an easy team talk at half-time.
The second half was like a training session for Arsenal as they looked to get more goals and excite the fans. Cazorla was denied the goal his performance deserved when Volkan tipped a powerful low drive around the post, while Kieren Gibbs should have made it two goals in as many Champions League games when he sent his free header over from six yards.
Walcott has made a good start to the season and nearly got in his name on the scoresheet in the 70th minute. The former Southampton star unleashed a wicked free-kick from 25 yards that dipped and swerved before the ball thumped back off the cross bar. It was really unlucky, but Arsenal did make it 5-0 on aggregate two minutes later.
Wilshere picked out Gibbs with a clever pass and the defender’s cross was perfectly weighed for Ramsey’s run. The Welsh international strode onto the pass and expertly volleyed into the bottom corner from 15 yards, with Volkan lifeless in the Fenerbahce goal. It was a terrific finish and a sign of the confidence flowing through the central midfielder at the start of the season.
The Turkish side were beaten, but Arsenal could have added to the scoreline in injury time. Ryo Miyaichi found Carl Jenkison with his cross and the defender should have scored with a volley from six yards, but Volkan made a tremendous save to keep the score at 2-0.
The win meant Arsenal cruised through to the group stage and are in top form ahead of the North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend. Wenger will turn his attentions to the imminent shutting of the transfer window as he looks to add to his squad.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)