Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Arsenal 5 Shakhtar Donetsk 1: Cesc Fabregas's return inspires super display from the Gunners


By LAURA WILLIAMSON at the Emirates Stadium

Jack's the lad: Wilshere got on the scoresheet with his first goal in the Champions League

If this was billed as a top of the table clash in Group H of the UEFA Champions League, nobody told magnificent Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger's side were ruthless in dispatching Shakhtar Donetsk, who had also come into this tie with an unblemished record in their two group games.

The win means Arsenal have all but qualified for the knock-out stages for the 11th year in a row. With 14 goals scored in three matches - including the best of the lot from cracker Jack Wilshere - they have barely broken sweat.

Last night's five goals were the first Shakhtar, the 2009 UEFA Cup winners, have conceded in the Champions League group stage.

This statistic is, however, rather more reflective of the prowess of Partizan Belgrade and SC Braga than the strength of the Ukrainian side's defence.

It seems Mircea Lucescu's team know only one way to defend - and that is to attack. Who does that remind you of?

Lucescu said he knew Wenger from when the Arsenal boss was in charge at Nancy in the mid-1980s. 'We have the same ideas,' said the Shakhtar coach and it shone through in their teams. Both used a lone striker but were set up to attack with pace, creating neat triangles and moving the ball accurately and intricately.

Look who's back: Cesc Fabregas capped his return from injury with a second half penalty

But if these teams tried to play with the same philosophy, Arsenal were the masters and Shakhtar the apprentices.

They missed central midfielder Fernandinho, the Brazilian playmaker who broke his right leg on September 10.

Douglas Costa, the 20-year-old Brazilian who has been linked with a host of English top-flight clubs, also looked short of match fitness when he came on.

In addition, Arsenal possessed something entirely different in Marouane Chamakh. Something rather un-Arsenal, in fact.

The 6ft 2in striker was a willing outlet and focal point for longer balls when Wenger's side tired of the trickery.

Top Guns: Chamakh is congratulated after scoring his sixth consecutive Champions League goal in Europe

Arsenal even came close to scoring a route one goal after 23 minutes, as Chamakh nodded down a 50-yard pass and Samir Nasri drove a shot on target, only to be denied by Andriy Pyatov.

If it was Chamakh providing the main threat, it was Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings. Arsenal's club captain had been absent since injuring a hamstring in the 1-1 draw at Sunderland on September 18 and his impact was immediate, playing in the middle of an advanced midfield three behind Chamakh.

Theo Walcott also played 18 minutes for the first time since September 7. Praise, too, should go to Wilshere, playing his last game before a three-match ban for his red card against Birmingham.
In his programme notes, Fabregas said he had spoken to 18-year-old about his sending off, but Wilshere was lucky to escape a booking for a studs-up challenge on Tomas Hubschman.

'No more,' signalled Norwegian referee Svein Oddvar Moen. Wilshere responded positively - and made an excellent ball-winning tackle on Razvan Rat just after the re-start.

The teenager was bound to be in the spotlight but was superb in anchoring the midfield alongside the excellent Alex Song

His ban will follow. 'A breather,' Wenger called it, but it is Arsenal who have given themselves plenty of breathing space in Europe and can have a real tilt at the Premier League in the coming months.

It is not unusual to see the odd goalkeeping blunder at the Emirates but, on this occasion, it was the opposition 'keeper who was culpable.

Pyatov failed to catch a routine cross, dropping the ball into the path of Song, who prodded it home with 18 minutes gone.

Pyatov and his back four did not exactly cover themselves in glory for Arsenal's second, either. A deflected cross from Song was allowed to find Nasri outside the six-yard box after 42 minutes.

The 23-year-old juggled the ball from right to left foot, effortlessly creating a yard of space before blasting a shot past Pyatov, who remained rooted to the centre of his goal.

Arsenal were denied a penalty when Razvan Rat barged Tomas Rosicky, but there was no turning down their second appeal on 60 minutes.

In tune: Song gets Arsenal off the mark with a first half tap-in

As players jostled in the box while anticipating a Nasri freekick, Luiz Adriano climbed all over Johan Djourou, bringing down the defender. Fabiano was booked and Fabregas converted from the spot.

A wonderful passing move resulted in the sweetest of one-twos between Rosicky and Wilshere, with the Englishman sublimely chipping the ball into the left-hand corner in the 66th minute.

There was a deserved goal for Chamakh, too, who latched on to a ball from Nasri to steer Arsenal's fifth past Pyatov.

Back in town: Eduardo marked his return to the Emirates with a consolation goal

It was an emotional return to the Emirates for Eduardo, the former Arsenal striker who spent three years in north London.

'Welcome home, Eduardo' read a banner. The Croatia star, whose Arsenal career will forever be haunted by the broken leg he suffered in 2008, had to wait 63 minutes to get onto the pitch, but scored Shakhtar's consolation goal with nine minutes left.

He had promised not to celebrate and he didn't, as the home fans warmly applauded his left-foot finish from a Jadson cross.

source: dailymail


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