We booked our place in the last-16 of the Europa League with a comfortable victory against BATE Borisov on Thursday evening.
If there were any early nerves at the prospect of trying to overturn our first-leg deficit, they were soon dispelled when, after an opening blitz, we took the lead in the fourth minute.
It arrived in fortuitous circumstances when Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang dropped his shoulder and powered away down the right before seeing his low cross diverted into his own goal by Zakhar Volkov.
It was the perfect start – and our fastest goal in European competition since Lukas Podolski’s strike against Galatasaray back in December 2014.
We continued to pour forward ,with the lively Alex Iwobi coming within inches of doubling our advantage with a curling effort, although BATE did pose a threat on the break.
From one such counter, they came perilously close to equalising when Stephan Lichtsteiner was forced to clear off the line from Stanislav Dragun, who scored the only goal of the game in the first leg.
Granit Xhaka and Aubameyang were next to test Denis Scherbitski in the Borisov goal, before Shkodran Mustafi made it two just before the interval, powering home a header from a corner.
Now we had the lead in the tie, but there was still no margin for error as an away goal for the visitors could still send us out– and Igor Stasevich had an opening at the start of the second half, only to see Petr Cech save his stabbed shot.
Iwobi came close to adding a third with a skidding low shot that was pushed away by Scherbitski, before former Gunner Alex Hleb came on for the visitors to a huge roar from the Emirates crowd.
We extended our lead, once again from a corner, when Sokratis – only on the pitch for 226 seconds - rose highest at the far post to head home to give us some breathing space in this tie.
Aubameyang dinked a shot inches wide after rounding the goalkeeper, but there would be no further goals as we secured our place in Friday’s last-16 draw.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
The draw for the last-16 will take place at 12pm (UK time) on Friday, and is an open draw with no seeded teams or country protections – meaning we could face Chelsea.
It will be streamed live on Uefa.com and last-16 matches will take place on March 7 and 14, with exact timings being confirmed afterwards.
We host Southampton at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, and will be seeking to avenge our 3-2 defeat on the south coast back in December which ended our 22-game unbeaten run.
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