Olivier Giroud scored his 100th goal in Arsenal colours as we sealed a comprehensive victory against BATE Borisov in Belarus on Thursday.
In a entertaining clash, we scored three goals inside the first 25 minutes – a brace for Theo Walcott and one for Rob Holding – while the hosts pulled one back.
The second half was less frenetic, but you still couldn’t take your eyes of the match for a second as we eased into a 4-1 lead before BATE struck their second, and then threatened a comeback.
The win leaves us in pole position in Group H, ahead of back to back games against Red Star Belgrade, and our attacking play will have delighted Arsene Wenger.
With the hugely-impressive Jack Wilshere pulling the strings in the No 10 role, we soon started the dominate proceedings.
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There were just eight minutes on the clock when Wilshere slipped Walcott through in the area, but his poked shot struck the post and his follow-up effort was blocked.
But it mattered not as, 60 seconds later, the England international was offered the chance to make amends… and he would not pass it up.
Once again Wilshere was at the heart of it, receiving the ball to the left of the area and delivering an inviting cross to his team-mate, waiting six yards out who forced it over the line at the second time of asking.
It was enough to temporarily silence the partisan home crowd, but they soomn found their voice when the busy Mirko Ivanic arrowed a shot just wide from the edge of the area.
But we extinguished the home fans’ hopes of a comeback when Walcott doubled our lead, preying on a mistake from goalkeeper Denis Scherbitski to slot into the bottom corner.
It was a cool finish, and while Holding’s strike for our third goal of a frantic first half was less predatory, the centre back will not care a jot as he bundled the ball over the line from close range after a corner fell at his feet.
It was the 21-year-old’s first goal in Arsenal colours and his ecstatic celebration in front of the 700 or so travelling fans told it’s own story.
BATE got themselves back into the game moments after that goal went in as Ivanic headed beyond Ospina to spark wild celebrations inside this arena.
There was still time for Walcott to see a shot deflected narrowly wide and for Holding to hit the post before the interval, but four minutes after the restart we had our fourth – and Giroud had his century of Arsenal goals.
It came from the penalty spot and the decision to award it had a degree of controversy about it as contact between Stanislav Dragun and Shkodran Mustafi in the box appeared to be minimal.
But no one of an Arsenal persuasion was complaining, least of all Olivier Giroud who calmly slotted his spot kick into the bottom corner.
BATE pushed on as they sought to find a way back into the game, and they pulled one back in the 68th minute when Mikhail Gordeichuk smashed the ball home from close range.
The goal changed the mood around the ground, and soon the hosts poured forward again – with Aleksandr Volodko firing just over the bar from the edge of the area.
The hosts continued to press forward in search of another goal, but we were able to see it out to secure our fifth win in six games.
AS IT HAPPENED
Jack Wilshere was in fabulous form in Belarus, linking the midfield and attack and creating a host of chances for his team-mates.
Here are some of his highlights from a memorable display:
8 - Nelson cuts in from the right and finds Wilshere, who slips it into Walcott in the area but his shot hits the post and his follow-up is blocked
9 - Another nice move as Giroud plays Wilshere into space to the left of the box, and he crosses to Walcott to score from close range
17 - Walcott finds space to the right of the box, and he crosses to the onrushing Wilshere who converts from close range… but he’s flagged offside
25 - Wilshere plays a beautiful ball in behind the defence to the onrushing Maitland-Niles and he squares the ball but Borisov desperately clear it for a corner… from which Rob Holding scores
33 - Wilshere combines beautifully with Giroud on the edge of the area and races through, but the ball bounces up and hits his hand and the whistle goes
43 - Walcott’s shot is palmed just wide after a driving run and pass by Wilshere
WHAT IT MEANS
Newly-promoted Brighton & Hove Albion are the visitors to Emirates Stadium on Sunday for the lunchtime kick off.
We have won our last four matches against them, although the last time we hosted them was on February 5, 1983 – a 3-1 victory at Highbury.
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