Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski See Arsenal Past Montpelier
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Arsenal won qualification to the knockout stage on Wednesday night with a comfortable—if not overly impressive—2-0 win against Montpelier in the Champions League.
In a match where they looked far from their best, the Gunners went ahead early in the second half through Jack Wilshere, before Lukas Podolski's sensational volley doubled their lead and effectively sealed the victory.
Arsenal struggled to find a rhythm early in the match, as Podolski, Giroud, and Wilshere all misplaced simple passes in the first five minutes.
The Gunners' first real attack didn't come until the ten minute mark, and their pressure from the ensuing corner kick nearly paid dividends.
Laurent Koscielny directed a powerful header from Vermaelen's cross onto the woodwork and Per Mertesacker—in search of his second goal in as many games—nearly weaved his way past three defenders from the rebound.
Arsenal were on the back foot two minutes later when Yanga-Mbiwa's through pass found Anthony Mounier charging down the left hand side. Wojciech Szczesny was out of his goal quickly to intervene and managed to make a challenge in the nick of time.
The home side, though, grew in confidence throughout the half.
Oxlade-Chamberlain made a penetrating run before passing off to Santi Cazorla, who was fouled just outside the penalty area. The referee waited as the ball bobbled around the edge of the area to see if an advantage would develop, and the ball nearly fell again to Oxlade-Chamberlain before the chance was lost.
Arsenal continued to press forward and a pair of opportunities fell to Podolski. On the second occasion, Cazorla played him in on the left side with a perfectly timed pass, but the German international could only spray his shots wide of the target.
The second half started much as the first had ended and Arsenal were finally rewarded in the 49th minute.
Thomas Vermaelen crossed from the left side in search of Giroud. His header back across the face of the goal found the unmarked Wilshere, who took the ball on the bounce and tapped it over the fingertips of the approaching Jourdren.
The goal—Wilshere's first since returning from injury—seemed to take the sting out of the game, as Arsenal sat back and defended their lead for some time.
However, they bounced back with two promising attacks that were thwarted by poor offside calls at the 60 minute mark. Their efforts were soon to be rewarded again, though.
Oxlade-Chamberlain nicked the ball off Bedimo just inside the Montpellier half, before driving toward their penalty area. There he found Podolski square on the left corner of the area, who passed back across for Giroud.
Giroud's one-touch chip over the defense was met in-stride by a powerful left-footed volley from Podolski. After that, Jourdren could only watch as it sailed over his hands.
From there, Arsenal only grew in confidence.
They could have added a few more, with chances from Cazorla and Giroud going to waste.
Though Arsenal will face much sterner tests than the French side that sit only two points above the relegation zone in Ligue 1, they can take comfort from a performances where they created plenty of opportunities and were relatively untroubled at the back. With the three points in hand, Arsenal have secured passage to the knockout stage of the competition for the 13th straight season, and that will give Arsene Wenger and supporters plenty to be happy about for now.
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