Arsenal 3-0 Rennes (4-3 on agg): Julien Stephan’s side bid au revoir to Europa League after Pierre-Emerick brace and Ainsley Maitland-Niles send Gunners into quarter-finals
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Arsenal hosted Stade Rennais at the Emirates on Thursday in the second leg of the Europa League round of 16. Read on for Layth Yousif’s match report.
Rennes bid au revoir to their Europa League hopes after Arsenal eased past Julien Stephan’s side 3-0 in the Europa League second leg round of 16 tie at the Emirates on Thursday evening.
A brace form Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sandwiched by Ainsley Maitland-Niles first goal at home sealed the victory to send Unai Emery’s men into quarter-finals of the tournament.
Arsenal made the perfect start after Maitland-Niles played the ball into Aaron Ramsey who squared for Aubameyang to slot home from close range to put the Gunners 1-0 ahead after only three minutes.
The smoke had barely died down from the red flares the Rennes fans let off in the away end before the home side had pulled the aggregate score back to 2-3 with practically the whole game to play.
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The Rennes boss Julien Stephan told this correspondent last week after the match at Roazhon Park in deepest Brittany that his team were facing a difficult evening at the Emirates in the second leg.
He was right as Maitland-Niles doubled the score with his first goal at the Emirates to make it 3-3 on aggregate after he emphatically headed home following a cross from Aubameyang - who grabbed an assist to go with his early goal with barely 15 minutes elapsed.
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The home side were in a strange position after the break, knowing they were through on away goals, but not sure whether to stick or twist in terms of the fine line between attack and defence.
Rennes tactics on the other hand simply seemed to be a desire to get an Arsenal player sent off just like last week when Sokratis saw red for tangling with Ismalia Sarr.
However, such diversionary tactics only served to distract them from their task in hand of scoring a vital away goal – while infuriating the home crowd.
One particular dive from Rennes Ramy Bensebaini after minimal contact from Alex Lacazette was so shocking you hoped that fervent anti-diving campaigner Sean Dyche wasn’t watching – for the good of his health if nothing else.
As the clock ticked down so did the danger of conceding an away goal. Sead Kolasinac was aware of that danger, emphatically blocking the dangerous Sarr well, prompting one of the loudest cheers of the evening.
Aubameyang made it 3-0 just as nerves were starting to jangle at the Emirates, finishing off a fine move to put the Gunners ahead on aggregate for the first time in the tie as Emery continued his bid to win the trophy for a fourth time.