Gunners cruise into semis
Arsenal produced an impressive performance to overcome Villarreal 3-0 at Emirates Stadium.
Last Updated: 16/04/09 11:19am
Arsenal produced an impressive performance to overcome Villarreal 3-0 at Emirates Stadium and win their UEFA Champions League quarter-final 4-1 on aggregate.
Theo Walcott gave the Gunners a perfect start when he coolly chipped the ball past Diego Lopez after 10 minutes, although Emmanuel Adebayor missed a good chance to make it 2-0 before the break.
Villarreal improved after half-time and enjoyed a brief spell of pressure, but Adebayor's fine finish on the hour-mark eased Arsenal's nerves.
Any chance of a Villarreal fightback then disappeared nine minutes later when Walcott won a penalty after being brought down by Diego Godin, and Sebastian Eguren was sent off for protesting too much.
Robin van Persie stepped up to smash the spot-kick home and Arsenal coasted through the closing stages to set up a meeting with defending champions Manchester United in the last four.
Bacary Sagna was taken ill ahead of the clash, meaning an entire back four was missing as Arsenal protected their slender away-goals advantage.
Kolo Toure held together a defence that contained Emmanuel Eboue at right-back, Kieran Gibbs at left-back and the inexperienced Lucasz Fabianski in goal.
Villarreal had problems of their own, with Marcos Senna, the cornerstone of their midfield, out injured.
They did have Robert Pires stationed on the left flank, meaning it was Arsenal's past versus the club's future, as Walcott was raiding down the right.
It was a fascinating clash, with Walcott almost putting the ball out of play early on when Pires picked up a knock, only to carry on with the ball to set up an attack.
The 20-year-old showed his ruthless side again when he netted the opener in the 10th minute.
Eboue slipped the ball forward from the right, Cesc Fabregas' flick allowed Walcott to run through on goal, with the England winger chipping home high over goalkeeper Lopez.
It was reward for Arsenal's bright start after Van Persie went close with a header that cleared the crossbar and a long-range effort that Lopez gathered at the second attempt.
The hosts were inches from adding a second goal after Van Persie's powerful free-kick was saved by Lopez. Adebayor's follow-up header got deflected on target but Gonzalo Rodriguez hacked off the line.
All eyes were on the assistant referee but it would have been the tightest of calls if he had flagged for a goal.
The equation for Villarreal shifted only slightly - they still needed a goal. Diego Godin had given Wenger's side an early scare when he got on the end of Giuseppe Rossi's free-kick and forced Fabianski into a save with his scissor-kick.
Villarreal then caused some nervous moments in Arsenal's defence before the break, with Rossi getting sight of goal at the near post before the hosts scrambled clear.
Pires also had a shot blocked from the edge of the area, while Godin headed over from a corner in first-half stoppage-time.
Manuel Pellegrini's men sensed that it was their time to apply pressure on Arsenal's makeshift defence. It meant all hands on deck for Wenger's back-line.
Arsenal's best option was to counter attack. Van Persie was making runs from deep to cause Villarreal problems, with Godin picking up a booking for stopping one run.
No opponent got close enough to Van Persie on the hour-mark and he sent through Adebayor, who took one touch before finishing past Lopez with the outside of his boot.
The third came from Van Persie's penalty, which also saw Eguran dismissed.
Godin took Walcott's legs away in the penalty area but escaped a second booking for the offence. Eguran, who got a yellow card in the first half, got another caution for dissent and then disgracefully put his hands on the referee while protesting more. Van Persie kept his nerve and fired in the spot-kick.
Wenger's goalscorers were then given a breather to rest for the battles ahead.
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|7||Shots on Target||3|
|6||Shots off Target||4|