Arsenal advance after nervy win
Arsenal qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League as group runners-up after a 3-1 win over Partizan.
By James Riach
Last Updated: 08/12/10 10:07pm
Arsenal qualified for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League as Group H runners-up following a 3-1 win over Partizan Belgrade.
However, the Gunners were not entirely convincing on a bitter evening at the Emirates and looked like a side low on confidence for large parts of the game.
Partizan did not offer much in attack and got most of their players behind the ball, although they went behind as Robin van Persie put away a penalty on the half-hour mark after he was felled in the area by Marko Jovanovic.
A deflected effort from Cleo levelled the scores after the break, only for substitute Theo Walcott and in-form Samir Nasri to secure the victory with two fine goals in the space of four minutes, before Bacary Sagna was shown a straight red card for a last-man trip.
Arsenal will now face Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Schalke in the first knockout round of the competition, as Shakhtar Donetsk advanced as group winners following their triumph over Braga.
Despite maintaining a 100 per cent home record, Arsene Wenger knows poor away performances at Shakhtar and Braga could yet come back to haunt his side, who could potentially be handed a huge task next up.
Van Persie, taking the captain's armband in the absence of the injured Cesc Fabregas, was deployed in a deeper role behind Marouane Chamakh, with Nasri out wide but with a license to roam.
No cutting edge
However, despite having plenty of possession, Arsenal lacked any real creativity while Almami Moreira looked lively for the visitors, whose only goal in the Champions League so far had come against Arsenal in Belgrade.
Nasri - whose fine brace against Fulham had sent Arsenal top of the Premier League on Saturday - crafted an opening from the right when his cross was headed over by Chamakh.
On 15 minutes, full-back Kieran Gibbs turned his ankle badly and was taken off on a stretcher, but managed to return to the action only to eventually be replaced by Emmanuel Eboue.
As the half-hour mark approached, Arsenal - who travel to Manchester United on Monday night - were gifted the opening goal when Jovanovic upended van Persie after Alex Song had burst into the Partizan penalty area.
The Dutchman took the spot-kick himself to fire home his first goal since the final day of last season.
Partizan - nicknamed the Steamrollers and who had lost all five European ties so far - could easily have let their heads drop, but continued to try to attack.
Brazilian striker Cleo got clear down the right, but his cross into the danger zone was hacked away.
Van Persie played in Chamakh when he capitalised on a mistake by captain Mladen Krstajic, but for once this season the 10-goal Moroccan got the ball stuck under his feet and keeper Vladimir Stojkovic collected.
Given his current form, Nasri would have been expected to bury his effort when the ball dropped to him from Van Persie's knockdown some 10 yards out at the start of the second half - but the French midfielder fired his shot high over the bar.
Arsenal's defensive frailties were exposed again when Partizan scored a shock equaliser on 52 minutes.
The ball was worked down the left and then through to Cleo, some 20 yards out. He was given the space to turn and fire a shot goalwards, which deflected off the lunging Sebastien Squillaci and looped over Lukasz Fabianski.
The atmosphere was flat as the home fans became somewhat anxious another disappointment lay ahead.
With 24 minutes left, Wenger looked to inject fresh life into the attack as he sent on Walcott, replacing the ineffective Andrey Arshavin.
The England winger was blocked on the edge of the area by Krstajic, which earned the Partizan skipper a yellow card. Nasri whipped the free-kick over the wall, with Stojkovic making a fingertip save.
The keeper, though, could do little as, on 73 minutes, Walcott lobbed the ball into the far corner after it fell to him on the right side of the area.
Chamakh was replaced by Nicklas Bendtner and the Dane had a hand in Arsenal's third after a neat exchange of passes with Song on the edge of the area fed Nasri - and the Frenchman sidestepped his marker as he swept the ball into the far corner.
There was late drama as Sagna was sent off for tripping Alexander Lazevski after being deemed last man by Italian referee Paolo Tagliavento.Radosav Petrovic struck the free-kick, right on the edge of the area, goalwards - but Fabianski made a fine save.
|Arsenal||Team Statistics||FK Partizan Belgrade|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||3|
|5||Shots off Target||5|