Danny Welbeck helped send Arsenal into the semi-finals of the Europa League
This, though, was not the week to try finally to emulate them.
After everything they have put their fans through in recent years, they owed them a quiet Thursday night in front of the box.
But no. Once again Arsenal had to do it the hard way – unable to rest easy until Danny Welbeck continued his recent goalscoring form by sweeping the ball past Igor Akinfeev and the Gunners into the semi-finals.
After tonight, though, only an optimist whose glass is as permanently half-full as Arsene Wenger will be able to drink to the fact they squeaked through as any sort of demonstration of character.
Once again, senior players failed to take control of 90 minutes they should have cruised through and it was not as though they had not had enough calls to arms over the preceding 48 hours.
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It has not been a good week for three goal advantages in Europe.
Barcelona were toppled despite enjoying the identical 4-1 first-leg lead that Arsenal brought into this game and Juventus had clawed back a similar-sized deficit at the Bernabeu, albeit briefly.
And it was a night for hat-tricks – the World Cup organisers presenting the travelling Arsenal fans with traditional military ushankas, complete with ear flaps, as a “Warm Welcome to Moscow”.
Not that there were many of those who had made the trip – the majority of “away” fans among the 1,000 or so in the Arsenal end locals with a soft spot for Arsene Wenger’s side.
Thankfully, the mood was good-natured, despite the awkward political background to this clash but that did not prevent the home fans from making it intimidating with their raucous singing a feature throughout.
By contrast, it took their players a little while to get going. It was 21 minutes before either side managed a shot, a tame effort from debutant Kristijan Bistrovic which skedaddled wide of Petr Cech’s goal from distance.
Alexandre Lacazette responded with a breakaway effort of his own five minutes later which was deflected over the bar but again Arsenal were disappointing from their set-piece.
Not that the Gunners seemed to mind. With Mohamed Elneny marauding about the pitch energetically in the place of flu victim Granit Xhaka, the passing between Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck was fluid enough to ensure most of the possession was enjoyed by the Premier League club.
Meanwhile at the other end, Ahmed Musa and Aleksandr Golovin, dangermen at the Emirates, seemed to run out of puff as quickly as ideas as soon as they got near to goal.
But never underestimate the ability of the Arsenal defence to implode.
It was the simplest of right foot crosses from the left touchline from Konstantin Kuchaev, but Kirill Nababkin won an easy header and although Petr Cech saved, Fedor Chalov reacted first to poke the ball over the line.
Out of nowhere, suddenly the party seemed to have a bit of edge to it. The gloves – not to mention several of the shirts on a cool Moscow evening – were off.
Bistrovic fired a 20-yard shot inches over the bar and somehow Arsenal held on for a frantic six minutes until the break.
Aaron Ramsey scored a late equaliser for Arsenal against CSKA Moscow
From the opening exchanges of the second half it seemed that Arsenal were again determined to sit back just a trifle too deeply with Elneny dropping further back.
The ploy succeeded for precisely five minutes as once again Arsenal shot themselves in the foot.
Golovin was given time to shoot from range, Cech failed to hold and this time it was Nababkin finishing off the rebound.
Cech was at full stretch again in the 53rd minute, this time turning Golovin’s free-kick around the post. It was nervy stuff.
That sense could have been eased if Elneny had not over-eagerly strayed offside before heading in after 57 minutes – but at least it was a reminder to Arsenal that an aging defensive unit were there for the taking with a bit of pace and composure.
Instead, hearts were again in their mouths when Musa tumbled in search of a penalty, with rather less success than Madrid got out of Michael Oliver.
Danny Welbeck celebrates Arsenal’s first goal of the night
Wilshere limped off through injury; Laurent Koscielny sliced over the bar from a corner; Golovin volleyed venomously but inches wide. Arsenal seemed determined to take it to the wire.
Then, with 14 minutes on the clock, Welbeck finally broke through the defence, completed a neat one-two with Elneny and fired in.
Aaron Ramsey also got in on the action with his late strike but the final whistle still came as a blessing.
Arsenal may have made it but three much harder challenges are to follow if Arsenal are to make this the “easy way” back into the Champions League.
Read more here: Daily Express :: Sport Feedhappy wheels
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