Arsenal 4-1 CSKA Moscow: Attacking Gunners hold advantage after Aaron Ramsey’s sublime strike
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
Arsenal beat CSKA Moscow in the Europa League quarter final first leg at the Emirates on Thursday evening – crowned by a sublime goal from Aaron Ramsey.
Two goals each from Ramsey and Alexandere Lacazette sealed the match – if not the tie – for Arsene Wenger’s side in a hectic first half which saw Gunners transfer target Alexsandr Golovin level with an exquisite free kick.
The match will be remembered for Ramsey’s superb version of his own ‘Scorpion Kick’ which put the home side 3-1 up and broke the will of the Russian side.
The game was also notable for the sumptuous performance of Mesut Ozil who was influential and creative.
Gunners goalkeeper David Ospina missed the match with an ankle complaint that saw Petr Cech start after he recovered from a slight groin injury.
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Viktor Goncharenko – who made his name in his native Belarus with five titles at BATE Borisov as well as leading the club into the group stages of the Champions League three times – started with an experienced team which included the veteran Berezutski brothers, Sergei and Vasili as well as the experienced 32-year-old goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
The Russians may have been in the last eight of a European tournament for only the third time, but having dispatched the highly-fancied Lyon in the previous round, they were not to be taken lightly.
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And although they went behind on nine minutes after Ramsey fired home from a Hector Bellerin cross, they were soon level after grabbing what could still be an important away goal.
Captain Laurent Koscileny made a poor challenge which gave Czech referee Pavel Kralovec no choice but to award a foul on the edge on the area.
The highly-rated Alexsandr Golovin – who Wenger is reputedly interested in – lifted the ball over the wall and into the net past Cech’s left hand, after picking himself up from Koscielny’s clumsy foul moments earlier.
It was a fine piece of craftsmanship although you could question whether Cech was hampered in his mobility from the groin strain.
With ‘Cup Keeper’ Ospina out and only the talented but raw Matt Macey for cover would Wenger have picked the former Chelsea man if he wasn’t forced to?
No matter. A rampant Arsenal side simply went up the other end and earned a penalty after Ozil was brought down in the box on 23 minutes.
The fit again Lacazette showed a cool head to slot home, sending the legendary Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev the wrong way.
Arsenal made it 3-1 five minutes later when Ramsey showed astonishing improvisation to send the ball over the 32-year-old goalkeeper.
There were echoes of Olivier Giroud’s acclaimed ‘Scorpion Kick’ in the way the 27-year-old used his heel to loop the ball into the net.
Yes, you could argue he was unmarked in the box.
But to show such delicious skill was as joyous as it was unexpected and sent the crowd into a heartening round of appreciation. First with sudden delight at the exhibition of athleticism allied with technique Ramsey showed, then with a spontaneous round of applause at the realisation of what they had just witnessed.
For more confirmation it was a spectacular goal the look on Akinfeev’s face – a cross between confusion and shock – said it all.
CSKA were reeling and the home side made it four after Lacazette notched his second of the evening after showing neat control in the box before firing a low left footed shot past Akinfeev’s right hand with ten minutes still to go in a hectic first half.
As the teams went in at the break the many in the crowd rose to applaud their heroes.
Of course they lauded the two goalscorers but it was the performance of Ozil which brought many to their feet.
He was creative, he was efficient, he was influential. And on evidence such as this worth every penny of his £350,000 a week salary.
The second half started in similar attacking fashion as Ozil picked out Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who showed great technique in bringing the ball under his command before shooting narrowly wide.
Ramsey then missed a chance to grab his hat-trick after Monreal pulled the ball back to him but his shot was deflected wide. Lacazette then missed a chance after substitute Alex Iwobi – on for Mkhitaryan - set him up.
With 13 minutes remaining man of the match Ramsey struck the post with such ferocity you could hear the percussive shudder from Akinfeev’s left-hand post afterwards.
As the clock ticked down you could also feel the sense of a job well done by Arsenal – even if there was still a vague feeling that only a fifth goal would make next week’s second leg relatively safe.