Aaron Ramsey scored a sensational goal as we ran out 4-1 winners against CSKA Moscow in the first leg of our Europa League quarter-final on Thursday night.
In a frenetic first half, we blew the Russian visitors away with a brilliant display of incisive attacking play to score four times – although we did give up an away goal.
We started with real intent, with Henrikjh Mkhitaryan hitting the sidenetting and Ramsey having a goal disallowed within the opening seven minutes – but we did not have long to wait for the opener.
Moments later a slick attack saw Mesut Ozil find Hector Bellerin in space down the right flank, and the Spaniard slid it across goal for Ramsey to fire high into the roof of the net.
For all our delight at the goal, our lead was shortlived as CSKA came down the other end and won a free kick on the edge of the area after a foul by Laurent Koscielny. Aleksandr Golovin stepped up and curled a fine shot over the wall and beyond Petr Cech to equalise.
Ahmed Musa nearly gave the visitors the lead shortly afterwards, and the situation demanded a response – and how we responded.
Six minutes later we won a penalty – our third in two games – and Ozil was hauled down in the box – and Alexandre Lacazette made no mistake from the spot.
Not long afterwards Ramsey scored a goal that will live long in the Emirates Stadium annals as he raced into the box to meet a lofted Ozil pass and flicked it with the back of his foot up and over Igor Akinfeev to extend our advantage.
It was a jaw-dropping strike from the Welshman and the replays drew admiring gasps all around Emirates Stadium.
Things soon got even better as Lacazette scored his second of the evening, lashing the ball into the bottom corner after being picked out in the area, before Ozil went close to making it five just before the interval.
We started the second half as we ended the first, and Mkhitaryan came so close to adding to the scoreline but screwed his shot wide from close range.
Ramsey nearly had his hat-trick but saw a shot from 10 yards out deflected wide, while he went close again soon afterwards after Mkhitaryan had stung Akinfeev’s hands with a fierce drive.
It was Lacazette’s turn to go close to claiming his treble in the 67th minute after Iwobi’s cross-cum-shot found him at the back post, but he couldn’t get his effort on target from a tight angle.
We continued to press for a fifth, with Ozil testing Akinfeev before Ramsey hit the post with a curling effort from the edge of the area.
Danny Welbeck – on for Lacazette – was denied by the CSKA keeper from close range after being picked out by Ramsey in the closing stages, before the Wales international dragged a shot wide himself moments later.
The final whistle was greeted with a big roar from the home fans – this was quite a performance to rack up our fifth win on the bounce.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
This victory means we travel to Moscow next week with a healthy advantage to protect in the second leg of this quarter-final clash.
The last time we travelled to CSKA Moscow, back in 2006, we lost 1-0 in the Russian capital.
We host Southampton at Emirates Stadium on Sunday as we return to Premier League action.
The Saints – who recently appointed Mark Hughes as manager – have not won against us in north London since November 1987, a run of 22 games.
Alexandre Lacazette made his first start since January 30 – and was at the heart of the action at Emirates Stadium.
Here are his key moments from the game:
23 – Ozil dribbles into the box and is hauled down and we are awarded a penalty. Lacazette scores from the spot with a confident low finish
35 – Ozil pulls clear down the left-hand side and pulls it across goal to Lacazette in the box, who takes a touch and hits it left footed into the bottom corner to make it 4-1
67 – Lacazette comes so close to claiming his hat-trick after Iwobi’s shot comes to him at the far post, but his fires across goal from a tight angle
74 – Danny Welbeck comes on to replace Lacazette
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