Arsenal: Cech, Maitland-Niles, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Leno, Guendouzi, Mkhitaryan, Suarez, Iwobi, Torreira, Nketiah
Arsenal overturned a 3-1 defeat in the first leg to beat Rennes 3-0 in the Europa League tonight thanks to goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2) and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
Unai Emery kept the same system that worked well in the 2-0 win over Man Utd on Sunday, but made two changes to the side as Petr Cech came in for Bernd Leno while Shkodran Mustafi replaced the suspended Sokratis in the back three.
As in the first leg, the Gunners got off to a great start, opening the scoring in the 5th minute. Arsenal worked the ball over to the right hand side, Maitland-Niles did well in the box, found Ramsey and his low cross to near post was tucked away first time by Aubameyang. 1-0.
A dangerous low cross from the overlapping Kolasinac needed last ditch defending from the visitors to prevent a second goal, but it wasn’t long coming. The ball came down the left, Aubameyang played a one-two with Ramsey, there was a hint of offside, but he stood up a cross to the back post and Maitland-Niles met it perfectly with a thumping downward header into the net. 2-0.
Rennes centre-half Mexer picked up a booking for a foul on Lacazette, the Frenchman also went into the box for a foul on Andre, and the visitors got a bit more organised, pressing well and giving Arsenal much less time on the ball.
Aubameyang shinned an Ozil cross wide as he tried an acrobatic effort in the 35th minute, and a Ramsey effort failed to trouble the keeper after lovely Arsenal build-up down the left hand side involving Ozil and Lacazette. Ben Arfa dribbled a shot at Cech, and things got a bit tetchy as the referee’s decisions frustrated the Arsenal players.
Ramsey needed some treatment for a knock to his knee, but despite not maintaining the level they started the game with, the Gunners were under little pressure and took the two goal lead into the break.
There were no changes from either manager at half-time, but there was danger from the visitors when Mustafi gave the ball away. Grenier fed Niang and his low shot came back off the upright with Cech stretching. A series of niggly fouls tested the patience of the home fans and players, and when some twatbasket went down to try and get Lacazette sent off the referee did well, ignoring the theatrics and eventually booking Grenier for dissent.
Rennes had hardly had a sight of goal, but when Sarr got in behind in the 61st minute it took a brilliant Kolasinac block to prevent him testing Cech from inside the Arsenal area. Traore drove into the box, Koscielny defended well to cut out his cross, and Rennes hit the post once more but the offside flag was up.
Emery made changes in the 69th minute, bringing on Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Ozil and Lacazette, and the Nigerian international almost made an immediate impact dragging a left-footed shot wide after Xhaka set him. But a third goal came just moments later after a lovely move. Ramsey played it to Mkhitaryan, he took it on, waited, fed Kolasinac down the left and his low cross found Aubameyang at the back post for his second of the night. 3-0.
The striker donned a Black Panther mask in celebration which earned him a booking from the referee, before Rennes brought on Siliki for Andre. The Gabon international could have had a hat-trick after good work from Iwobi but poked his close-range effort just wide, and a minute later should have scored again after Iwobi and Ramsey combined to present him a glorious chance at the back post but he miskicked.
Lucas Torreira came on to replace Ramsey with three minutes of normal time remaining, and Rennes pushed for a goal which would take the game to extra-time. Twice the offside flag denied them with a clear sight of goal, Mustafi blocked a shot from Niang, there were some late yellow cards but in the end the Gunners went through to the quarter-finals.
The draw is tomorrow. Well done lads.