Cyprus Mail
Europa League

Arsenal into Europa League last eight

Damien Da Silva in action with Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

ARSENAL made it six English clubs in the quarter-finals of European competition as they overturned a first-leg deficit to beat Rennes in their Europa League clash.
Having lost 3-1 in north-west France last week, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit a brace and Ainsley Maitland-Niles scored just his second Arsenal goal to secure a 3-0 victory on Thursday.
Arsenal have form for making it hard for themselves having lost to both Rennes and BATE Borisov in the first leg of knockout ties this season.
They were boosted here by the availability of Alexandre Lacazette, who had his three-match ban for a red card in Borisov reduced to two on appeal, and, having already served those games out, he took his place in a strong Arsenal line-up.
The Rennes support, so loud at Roazhon Park a week ago, attempted to set a frenetic atmosphere in north London – singing and lighting flares in the opening stages.
But it was Arsenal who made the early running on the pitch with Lacazette involved almost from the off, losing a close-run race with Rennes goalkeeper Tomas Koubek, who just about got to a through-ball before the forward.
The opening goal came from the next attack, Maitland-Niles getting in down the right and finding Aaron Ramsey in the box, with his pass tucked away by Aubameyang.
Arsenal had their two-goal advantage with just 15 minutes on the clock, the Rennes defence freezing as a pass through to Sead Kolasinac would have caught the wing-back offside – but Aubameyang broke through instead, crossing for Maitland-Niles to nod home at the far post.
The visitors still had the right to be aggrieved at the goal as Aubameyang was also in an offside position when he opted to chase Ramsey’s pass before playing the ball in.
A couple of juicy challenges, including a bad foul by Lacazette which only earned him a yellow card, followed as Rennes attempted to regain a semblance of control.
Mesut Ozil and Lacazette combined to set up Ramsey, but his strike was straight at Koubek as the hosts went in at half-time with the lead they required.
There was a warning sign soon after the interval as Shkodran Mustafi lost possession and Petr Cech had to get down low to push M’Baye Niang’s shot onto the post.
Ramy Bensebaini rattled the opposite post only to see the offside flag raised as Rennes began to push for the goal they needed to completely alter the complexion of the tie.
Emery opted to introduce Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan from the bench and the former arrowed a shot just wide with 20 minutes remaining.
But the third goal would come from the next attack, Mkhitaryan heavily involved as he burst forward before releasing Kolasinac, whose cross was finished off by Aubameyang – who celebrated by donning a Black Panther superhero mask.
The Gabon striker poked a shot wide as he almost closed the tie out with a hat-trick before scuffing a fantastic chance moments later.
Rennes laid siege to the Arsenal box in the closing stages without ever really troubling Cech as Arsenal survived to claim a 4-3 aggregate win and complete a clean-sweep of European victories for the Premier League top six.

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