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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019

Welbeck hat-trick powers Arsenal past Galatasaray

Welbeck’s finishing was very clinical at the Emirates tonight.

Image: Andrew Matthews

DANNY WELBECK GAVE Arsene Wenger the perfect anniversary gift as the Arsenal striker’s hat-trick inspired a crucial 4-1 win against Galatasaray in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Wenger celebrated the 18th anniversary of his arrival at Arsenal on Wednesday, but the Gunners’ boss demurred this week when offered the chance to reflect on his numerous moments of triumph in north London.

Instead Wenger remains focused on ensuring his current crop will one day be recalled as fondly as some of his previous, more successful, vintages.

Arsenal had been spluttering through a dispiriting run of one win from their last six matches in all competitions — including a lacklustre 2-0 defeat at Borussia Dortmund that marked their first loss in the opening game of the Champions League group stages since 2003.

Against that troubling backdrop, Wenger may regard this much-needed Group D success as one of his more satisfying victories.

As well as kick-starting Arsenal’s European campaign, there was vindication for Wenger’s eye for talent as the first treble of Welbeck’s career provided the perfect riposte to critics who claim the England international isn’t a natural goalscorer.

Welbeck, who had scored only once since his £16 million move from Manchester United in September, struck twice before an Alexis Sanchez goal put the result beyond doubt before half-time.

Welbeck wrapped up his hat-trick in the second half, although Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny briefly soured Wenger’s anniversary celebrations when he was sent off for a foul on Burak Yilmaz, who converted the resulting penalty.

 Surgical precision 

With key midfielders Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta sidelined for several weeks due to injuries, Wenger fielded an attacking line-up including the recalled Sanchez and Santi Cazorla.

Chile winger Sanchez is capable of dissecting a defence with surgical precision and he took the scalpel to Galatasaray’s rearguard to lay on Arsenal’s 22nd minute opener.

His rapid burst towards the Galatasaray area from the left flank was met with little resistance, giving Sanchez time to slip a perfectly-weighted reverse pass behind the ponderous Felipe Melo, who allowed Welbeck to run off him and poke a cool finish past Fernando Muslera.

Welbeck left Galatasaray’s defenders trailing in his wake again eight minutes later when he latched on to Aurelien Chedjou’s misplaced back-header, showing impressive strength to withstand Melo’s lumbering challenge as he glided clear to steer his shot beyond Muslera.

With their team in tatters, Galatasaray’s always volatile fans responded by unleashing an unscheduled pyrotechnic display, causing play to be briefly halted as the Turkish team’s captain Wesley Sneijder appealed for calm after several flares landed on the pitch.

Muslera collected the flares and dropped them on the sidelines, at which point helmeted riot police and stewards filed along the advertising hoardings.

Wenger’s men showed no signs of being distracted by the incident and increased their lead in the 41st minute.

With Galatasaray’s defence in complete meltdown, Mesut Ozil had plenty of space to pick out Sanchez, who beat a feeble offside trap and checked inside Chedjou to plant a clinical finish into the far corner for his first Champions League goal since October 2012.

There was no let-up from Arsenal and Welbeck completed his treble when he made a well-timed run to meet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass and clipped his shot over Muslera in the 52nd minute.

The only frustration for Wenger came in the 63rd minute when Szczesny rushed off his line and caught Yilmaz as the striker advanced on goal.

Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi waved a red card at the Polish goalkeeper and his replacement David Ospina’s first task was to pick the ball out of the net as Yilmaz picked himself up to stroke in the penalty.

There was never any chance of the Turks making a comeback, however, and Wenger was able to relax on the bench as Arsenal cruised home.

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