BE PART OF THE TEAM

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 11°C Monday 19 April 2021
Advertisement

Champions League wrap: Rare Wilshere strike helps Arsenal advance

It was another pulsating night of European action with places in the knock-out stages at stake.

Image: Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

JACK WILSHERE FIRED the Gunners into the last 16 of the Champions League as his first goal for two years inspired a 2-0 home win over Montpellier.

Wilshere had gone 725 days without a goal, since he netted against Aston Villa in November 2010, after being sidelined for 14 months with foot and knee injuries.

But the England international finally got back on the scoresheet with a cool finish early in the second half against the French champions and Lukas Podolski’s stunning volley soon after sealed a vital victory at the Emirates Stadium.

With Schalke beating third placed Olympiakos in the night’s other Group B fixture with a late strike from defender Christian Fuchs; Wilshere and Podolski’s heroics put Arsenal into the knock-out stages of Europe’s elite club competition for the 13th successive season.

Arsene Wenger’s side remain second in the group, one point behind Schalke, but crucially they have avoided the prospect of a qualification shoot-out with Olympiakos in their last group fixture in Athens on December 4.

Wenger was forced to make one change to the team that thrashed north London rivals Tottenham 5-2 on Saturday as England winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started for the first time since October 3 in place of the injured Theo Walcott, who was sidelined with a shoulder problem.

But it was Wilshere, making his fifth appearance of the season, who was Arsenal’s driving force and he sent over a teasing cross that Laurent Koscielny headed against the crossbar in the early stages.

Arsenal’s often creaky back-four were caught out when Montpellier captain Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa slipped a pass through to Anthony Mounier and it took a brave block from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to snuff out the danger.

Yanga-Mbiwa was less assured on defensive duties, the midfielder allowing Podolski to rob him on the edge of his own penalty area before breathing a sigh of relief as the German dragged his shot just wide.

Podolski missed the target again moments later, this time with a miscued effort from a tight angle after Santi Cazorla’s pass unhinged the Montpellier defence.

That summed up a lethargic first half from the Gunners. Montpellier had virtually no chance of reaching the last 16 after taking just one point from their four matches, but they were still able to hold out with ease. However, Wenger’s half-time team-talk seemed to reinvigorate Arsenal and they took charge in emphatic fashion after the break.

Vibrant

The hosts were ahead in the 49th minute when Thomas Vermaelen clipped a cross to the far-post and Olivier Giroud rose highest to nod the ball into the path of Wilshere, who cleverly flicked his shot over advancing goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren with the outside of his left foot.

It was a cathartic moment for Wilshere after his injury nightmare and Arsenal, now in far more vibrant mood, killed off Montpellier with a sublime second goal 14 minutes later.

Podolski started and finished the move, prodding a pass to Giroud 20 yards from goal and then continuing his run into the penalty area to meet the former Montpellier forward’s return ball with a brilliant volley that flashed past Jourdren into the roof of the net.

Jourden kept the score respectable for Montpellier with fine saves to deny Cazorla and Giroud, but Arsenal had done enough to ensure their progress.

Elsewhere

In Group A, FC Porto were in control from start to finish on their way to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb.

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

Lucho’s 20th minute strike gave the Portuguese side a lead which they carried through half time. Knowing a win would seal qualification, the hosts rarely looked panicked and duly doubled their lead in the 67th  minute thanks to Joao Moutinho. Silvestre Varela sealed the three points with five minutes remaining.

On 13 points, Porto can still be caught by second placed PSG. Carlo Ancelotti’s cash-rich side were made to work on their trip to the Ukraine’s capital, but a beautiful sweeping moves was finished off by Ezequiel Lavezzi on the stroke of half time.

The striker doubled his, and his club’s, tally after the break after a determined run from Blaise Matuidi ended with the midfielder, squaring for the Argentine to tap in.

The 2-0 win leaves PSG on 12 points, qualified and in second place in Group A.

Zenit’s slim hope, crushed

In tonight’s early game in Russia, already-qualified Malaga were held to a 2-2 draw by Zenit St Petersburg, a result that kept the door slightly ajar for the Russian side to progress from Group C.

Argentinian midfielder Diego Bounanotte and Uruguay’s forward Seba Fernandez were on target for Malaga before while Portuguese winger Miguel Danny and substitute midfielder Viktor Faizulin ensured the comeback for Zenit.

Russian hope was extinguished, however, by an brilliant second half performance from Milan in Belgium. The Rossoneri were held scoreless at half time, but immediately after the break took the lead through Stephan El Shaarawy.

Robert Lewandowski squeezes in goal number four for Dortmund. Peter Dejong/AP/Press Association Images

A sensational Philippe Mexes overhead kick (you can see it here) doubled the Serie A side’s lead on 71 minutes and all-but settled Milan’s progression to the knock-out stages. Anderlecht did pull one back through Tom De Sutter on 78 minutes, but the visitors were able to restore their cushion in stoppage time via Alexander Pato.

‘D’ is for group of death

Manchester City’s Champions League dream was ended by a combination of their failure to beat 10-man Real Madrid (read all about that one here) and Borussia Dortmund’s imperious 4-1 win away to Ajax.

The visitors needed only eight minutes to open the scoring via Marco Reus, before Mario Goetze doubled their lead with a fine finish.

A somewhat fortunate Robert Lewandowski strike then put the match to bed shortly before the interval, and the Polish striker made it four after the break.

Substitute Danny Hoesen pulled one back for the hosts in the closing stages.

- © AFP, 2012

- Additional reporting by Sean Farrell

VIDEO: Like bicycle kicks? Philippe Mexes has a gift for you

‘Gentleman Thief’ — Ireland freaks out at Ray Houghton’s moustache

As it happened: Manchester City v Real Madrid, Champions League

About the author:

AFP

Read next:

COMMENTS