Arsenal have moved a step closer to booking their spot in the semi-finals of the Europa League with a 4-1 victory at home in their first leg against CSKA Moscow.
A first-half blitz saw the Gunners silence CSKA’s early away goal, as two goals apiece from Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette powered the hosts to a 4-1 lead.
The pair came close to adding to the scoreline in the second-half before Arsène Wenger’s men eventually settled for the four goals acquired in the first period, setting up a far more relaxed challenge for the return leg.
Arsenal welcomed back the likes of Lacazette, Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka for the encounter against the Russians, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan also finding his way back into the XI after being rested at the weekend.
It was through the Armenian that the Gunners came close to pulling themselves ahead in the tie early on, with the ex-Manchester United man popping up inside the box before thrashing a left-footed shot into the side-netting in the 4th minute.
Arsenal would get their early goal, this one through Ramsey, as Héctor Bellerín found the Welshman alone inside the box prior to the latter’s first-time finish in the 9th minute.
CSKA replied via Aleksandr Golovin’s free-kick, aimed at the top-right corner and beating Petr Čech in the 15th minute to level the game.
From one dead-ball specialist to another, the north Londoners were given an avenue back in front of the game, as Mesut Özil was brought down inside the box to offer Lacazette the chance to convert from the penalty spot, with the Frenchman making no mistake.
Özil found himself in the thick of things once more in the 27th minute, picking out Ramsey’s run into the box before the midfielder could adjust his positioning to beat Igor Akinfeev with a sublime flick over the goalkeeper’s head, as Arsenal raced through to a 3-1 lead.
Lacazette followed suit by bagging himself a brace, pouncing onto Özil’s cut-back prior to finishing on his left foot in the 34th minute, as Arsenal cruised into the interval with the score amplified to 4-1.
Ramsey neared his hat-trick on two separate occasions coming into the second period, with the Gunners reasserting their dominance on proceedings following the half-time break.
In the 67th minute, it was Lacazette’s turn, as Özil’s pass through to Iwobi saw the Nigerian opt to squeeze a pass to the striker rather than shoot, as the former Olympique Lyonnais star struggled against the angle when missing the target from close range.
The trend continued, with Ramsey going close again when curling a strike onto the outside of Akinfeev’s post in the 77th minute.
Four goals would do Arsenal nicely, however, ahead of next Thursday’s second leg tie at the VEB Stadium.
By Patrick Ribeiro
Player Ratings: Petr Čech (6) – Héctor Bellerín (7), Shkodran Mustafi (6), Laurent Koscielny (6), Nacho Monreal (7) – Aaron Ramsey (9), Granit Xhaka (6) – Mesut Özil (9), Jack Wilshere (7), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (6) – Alexandre Lacazette (7)
Subs: Alex Iwobi (6), Mohamed Elneny (-), Danny Welbeck (-)