Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Rosicky, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Vermaelen, Arteta, Walcott, Cazorla, Bendtner, Gnabry
Arsenal placed one firm foot into the knock out stages of the Champions League with a comfortable 2-0 victory over a lacklustre Marseille side. Two goals in either half from Jack Wilshere secured a victory that leaves Arsenal needing only to avoid heavy defeat in Naples to qualify.
It took all of 30 seconds for Wilshere to open the scoring. A quick exchange of passes on Arsenal’s right allowed Bacary Sagna to send Wilshere scampering away. He gracefully cut back inside the Marseille defender to curl the ball beyond Steve Mandanda. 1-0.
5 minutes later and there really should have been a second on the scoreboard. Wilshere again darted through the defence having been put in space by Olivier Giroud. His cross into the area found Aaron Ramsey who shot directly at the keeper. Marseille looked incredibly weak down their left side and Arsenal attempted to exploit it at every opportunity.
After the initial flurry of activity, the game became a subdued affair. Mesut Ozil’s was put through on goal by a wonderfully Fabregas-esque chipped pass from Ramsey, but our boggle-eyed German friend’s usually magnetic control of the ball let him down and it bobbled harmlessly into touch.
10 minutes before the interval, it again should have been 2-0. Ramsey was felled in the box after a splendid flick seemingly put him clear of two defenders. Unexpectedly, Ozil stepped up to convert the penalty, but his lackadaisical stop-start run up to the kick was easily read by Mandanda. It was was a poor penalty.
The 2nd half began with Ramsey again showing his fondness for ostentatious chipped passes and he sent Olivier Giroud clear through on goal. The Frenchman failed to finish the job and was incorrectly adjudged to be offside.
On 65 minutes, the second goal eventually materialised. Some lovely approach play put Ozil into prime position, and he made amends for his earlier blunder by slotting the ball across the goal for Wilshere to fire home his second of the evening. 2-0 and very comfortable.
Marseille’s fist meaningful attempt on goal came 20 minutes from time. Thauvin found himself in a good position, but the combined might of Szczesny’s frame and Monreal’s intelligent monitoring of the goal line prevent an unlikely concession. Moments later the same player cracked a vicious left-footed strike at goal that was kept out by an outstanding stop from Szczesny at his near post.
With the clock ticking down, some good Arsenal possession opened the way for Santi Cazorla to have a shot at goal. Uncharacteristically, the diminutive Spanish wizard lashed wildly at the ball and unconfirmed reports suggest someone was rendered unconscious in row Z behind the goal.
Walcott spurned a golden opportunity in the final moment. Clean through on goal, Theo’s lack of sharpness was all too apparent as he shot tamely wide when he should have scored.
Despite the win Arsenal still need something from their trip to Napoli after the Italians were beaten 3-1 by Dortmund, but they did what they had to do tonight.