x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Arsenal outclass Celtic for second time

Arsenal move into the Champions League group stages in controversial fashion as Eduardo's dive helps secure a 3-1 victory in their second-leg match against Celtic.

Arsenal's Eduardo shoots and scores his penalty against Celtic.
Arsenal's Eduardo shoots and scores his penalty against Celtic.

Arsenal moved into the Champions League group stages in controversial fashion as Eduardo's dive helped secure a 3-1 victory over Celtic in last night's play-off second leg. Arsene Wenger's team went through 5-1 on aggregate after outclassing the Scots for the second time in the tie, but they needed a moment of deception from Eduardo to end Celtic's hopes. The Croatia striker won and converted a first half penalty when he exaggerated his fall as the Celtic keeper Artur Boruc came out to make a save.

In truth, Arsenal were always in control and second half goals from Emmanuel Eboue and Andrey Arshavin rubbed salt into Celtic's wounds as the Premier League team comfortably secured their place in Thursday's group stage draw. The Hoops boss Tony Mowbray had no option but to go for broke as his side chased an unlikely comeback and he restored Scott McDonald and Marc-Antoine Fortune to the starting line-up after surprisingly dropping his most potent forwards for the first leg.

With the tie effectively wrapped up in Glasgow last week and Saturday's visit to Manchester United in mind, Wenger left Arshavin and Robin van Persie on the bench, while the captain Cesc Fabregas missed out with a hamstring injury. Although Arsenal benefited from a deflection and an own goal to win the first leg, there was no doubting their superiority and they were quickly back in the ascendancy.

The speed of Arsenal's passing and movement bewildered Celtic at times. Arsenal were well on top in the early stages but it took Eduardo's exploitation of the game's dark arts to open the scoring in the 28th minute. He raced onto Nicklas Bendtner's pass and waited for Boruc to come sliding off his line before tumbling theatrically to the turf. To Boruc's disbelief the Spanish referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez ruled that the incident was worthy of a penalty.

Eduardo dusted himself down, ignored the chants of cheat from the Celtic fans behind Boruc's goal and calmly sent the Polish keeper the wrong way from the spot. Celtic had the ball in the net just before half-time when McDonald tapped in Fortune's cross but the Australian's effort was rightly ruled out for offside. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was in the stands to check out Arsenal and, apart from the dive, he must have been impressed by Eduardo's display.

A second goal was inevitable and it arrived in the 53rd minute when Eboue's powerful finish capped a fine move between Clichy, Bendtner and Diaby that exposed the gulf in class between the teams. Arshavin, on as a substitute for Eduardo, gave Arsenal a final flourish in the 74th minute when he took Aaron Ramsey's pass and shot past Boruc. Massimo Donati got one back for Celtic with a superb volley in stoppage time but it was too little too late.

*AFP