Arsenal 3-1 Celtic (5-1 agg.): Gunners Cruise To Routine Victory

eduardo-vela

There were no problems whatsoever for Arsenal in progressing to the Champions League proper, dispatching Celtic 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium with the minimum of fuss.

A controversial first half penalty from Eduardo got the ball rolling for the hosts, before an Emmanuel Eboue strike early in the second period proved the killer blow to the Glasgow club. Rounding matters off was Andriy Arshavin, who strolled off the bench to add a third. Celtic gained some consolation via a Massimo Donati volley deep into stoppage time.

An up-tempo start to the game saw Arsenal bossing possession and territory, and despite Celtic’s intense pressing game in the centre of the field, the Premier League club were able to carve out a handful of early chances.

A particularly slicing movement down the home side’s left saw Gael Clichy hammer up the flank and square a neat pass to Nicklas Bendtner, whose near post effort was superbly blocked by Artur Boruc. The goalkeeper could not control the rebound, but Eduardo contrived to prod the ball past the post from close range.

Five minutes later, more impressive build up play from the Gunners cut another hole in the visiting rearguard. Emmanuel Eboue, who would act as a valuable pivot for the hosts for much of the evening, knocked a pass into the right channel for the on-rushing Denilson, who could only smack his shot into the side netting faced with pressure from the back-tracking Massimo Donati and an ever-decreasing angle.

The crispness and pace with which Arsenal moved the ball had troubled Celtic for much of the opening half hour of the game, but the Scots had held on without ever looking truly panicked, the two aforementioned incidents aside.

But just as at Parkhead last Tuesday, they would be bereft of luck. Eduardo steamed into the box via a one-two with Eboue, knocked the ball by Caldwell and then collapsed to ground under a challenge from Boruc. Referee Gonzalez had no hesitation in awarding the penalty kick, though he may well have second thoughts about the call if he watches replays of the incident. Nevertheless, Eduardo placed the ball on the spot and proceeded to deceive the Pole, planting Arsenal 1-0 up.

For a number of minutes it seemed that the Gunners could add further strikes to underline their first half dominance. Denilson found room 25-yards from goal but zipped his shot a comfortable distance over the top before another impressive overlap from the tireless Sagna resulted in Eduardo throwing himself at the ball but nudging the ball wide of the near post with his studs.

Celtic had shown in spells an ability to keep possession, but on the whole they gave away possession too cheaply to their technically superior opponents. On one of the few occasions they manage to retain the ball near the Arsenal goal, Scott Brown shuffled possession out to Marc-Antoine Fortune, whose angled low centre was tapped in from close range by Scott McDonald. The Aussie’s joy was short-lived, with the assistant referee’s flag correctly disallowed the strike.

This scare proved to be an interlude in Arsenal’s control, with further chances falling the way of the Gunners prior to the break. In stoppage time, a powerful burst forward from Emmanuel Eboue setup a shooting opportunity for Eduardo, whose superb 25-yard curler was only prevented from nestling into the top corner by a terrific block from Boruc. From the resultant corner, the half concluded with Bendtner flashing a header narrowly wide from the edge of the six-yard box.

Any thoughts that the Premier League club were home and dry were nearly cast aside inside the first two minutes of the second period. Aiden McGeady, whose clever feet had produced nothing of note in the first half, evaded Alex Song in the centre of the park before crushing a long-range shot narrowly past the top corner of the net.

Stirred by this scare, Arsenal immediately set about constructing another dangerous forward pulse. Eduardo was again the threat worrying the Scots’ back line, ducking inside a couple of rather feeble challenges on the edge of the box before slashing a shot meekly wide.

But the home fans did not have to wait long before their favourites produced a beautifully crafted move, the kind of which befits European football’s top table. Clichy started the move on the halfway line, moving the ball into the left channel for Bendtner to backheel into the path of Abou Diaby, who in turn picked out Eboue. With the composure of a centre-forward, a feint created room on the penalty spot for the Ivorian international to stroke home.

From this moment the game seemed to die, however, Arsene Wenger decided to breathe some new life into the game with around 20 minutes remaining by introducing Arshavin, who took advantage of Denilson’s industry in the centre of the park to pivot away from Darren O’Dea and finish low into the corner.

Celtic’s legs were tiring and their spirits waning by this stage. Meanwhile, the appetite for further goals in the home side was evident, with Boruc having to spring brilliantly from his line to deny a marauding Bendtner, who was inexplicably allowed to charge at goal from close to 40 yards out.

The Bhoys did manage to salvage some pride with the final kick of the ball, Donati sending a fine angled volley into the corner of Manuel Almunia’s net, but it was merely a token response from the ousted club.

If Celtic counted themselves somewhat unfortunate after the first leg at Parkhead, there could be little doubt that they were comprehensively outplayed at the home of Arsenal, as the north London side gave them a footballing lesson that they will not forget for a long time.

Goal

~ by footballdirecta on August 27, 2009.

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