Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Cazorla, Campbell, Alexis, Ozil, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Gibbs, Chambers, Ramsey, Reine-Adelaide
Arsenal kept their Champions League hopes alive as goals from Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez helped them to a 3-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb at the Emirates this evening.
There was one change from the team that lost to West Brom at the weekend, with Joel Campbell replacing Kieran Gibbs. Enthusiasm for this fixture was in short supply, with lots of empty seats in the ground, but after a little bit of visitor pressure in the first few minutes, it was the Gunners who created the first chance.
Joel Campbell got down the inside right channel and pulled it back for Santi Cazorla but the midfielder could only pull his shot over the bar. Olivier Giroud had a half-chance from a Mesut Ozil corner, Campbell set up Alexis well but the Chilean couldn’t get his shot away from inside the box, and it looked as if Arsenal were most likely to break the deadlock in the opening stages.
News filtered through of Bayern goals against Olympiacos. Arsenal dominated possession and territory but found it hard to fashion clear cut chances, until the 29th minute that is. Keeping the ball well from a deep position, Arsenal worked it out wide to Alexis, he crossed from the left, and Ozil stooped to head home from close range. 1-0.
The lead was doubled just 3 minutes later. After a Cazorla pass went astray, Dinamo had a chance to clear but their defender played the ball to Monreal. He drove into the box, squared for Alexis who finished into the bottom corner for his first goal in eight games. 2-0.
Ozil was in the mood for more, a fine run through the Zagreb defence gave him a sight of goal but the keeper got just enough on to direct it around the post, and Eduardo again denied the German when Monreal set up him up for a shot inside the box.
The game could have been out of sight at the break, instead a two goal lead was just reward for the way Arsenal played in the first half, and with Bayern leading 3-0 it was all going well.
The second period began much like the first with Cazorla testing Eduardo from distance, and then palming away a Giroud header from the resulting corner. Dinamo fired a shot not far wide and the Gunners might have been further ahead when Bellerin broke up field but the defending from Pinto was exceptional to prevent the pass that would have presented Alexis with a clear chance.
Campbell then volleyed wide with his right foot from inside the area, and the Costa Rican forward could have had a goal if an Alexis return pass from his break up-field had been better. Arsene Wenger then made his first change of the evening, bringing on Aaron Ramsey for Olivier Giroud in the 67th minute.
Moments later Arsenal had a third. Fantastic work down the left saw a nice Flamini flick to Campbell, he came inside, played a beautiful pass through the defence which Alexis picked up, went outside the keeper and finished from close range. 3-0.
The visitors almost got one back when a Koscielny clearance from inside the 6-yard box rebounded off one of his own men, but Petr Cech got down well to make the save. Alexis felt he should have had a 76th minute penalty but it would have been generous in fairness, while at the other end Cech made another save to deny Soudani.
There was a double change then with Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy coming on to replace Bellerin and Cazorla. For a moment there was great sadness that we didn’t get a little bit of The Jeff, but hey, it’s a small complaint on a night like this, and that pair are more likely to be needed over the next few weeks than the young Frenchman.
There was almost some added gloss with a fourth in the 88th minute. Alexis held the ball up, dinked a little ball over the defence, Ozil flicked a back header just wide with the keeper coming out.
In the end, the win was just what the doctor ordered, and it means that we go to Greece for the final group stage game knowing exactly what we need to do to make it to the knock-out stages.