Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice as we completed a superb turnaround victory to march on in the Europa League.
Trailing 3-1 from last week's first leg in France, we needed a dominant performance at the Emirates to stay in the competition, and thanks to a lightning start, that's what we produced.
There were just five minutes on the clock when we went ahead on the night. Aubameyang was in the right place at the near post to stick his leg out and divert Aaron Ramsey's low cross past the keeper.
It was the perfect start, and the ideal riposte to the packed away end, who had begun the evening in fine voice.
We kept the pedal to the metal after taking the lead, playing at the required intensity to turn around a two-goal deficit.
And the second goal soon followed.
Aubameyang just about kept the ball in play to loft a cross to the far post where Maitland-Niles arrived to firmly head home.
The Rennes players were appealing for offside against Aubameyang before the cross. They may have had a case, but the goal was given, and within a quarter of an hour of the first whistle, we were suddenly ahead in the tie.
It meant Rennes now had to come out in search of a goal of their own, and consequently space began to open up at both ends of the pitch.
The game was still in the balance, we were leading on away goals, and Rennes so nearly scored an away goal of their own early in the second half, but Petr Cech was down smartly to fingertip M'Baye Niang's low shot onto the post.
The game was getting increasingly scrappy – the Latvian referee punctuating play frequently with his whistle – and we were unable to get in any rhythm in our build up play.
The longer the game stayed at 2-0, the more nervy it became. Sead Kolasinac made a superb tackle in the box before Bensebaini struck the post, though he was flagged offside.
Unai Emery introduced Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi to rejuvenate our attack. It worked instantly. Iwobi shot just wide with virtually his first touch, and just moments later Mkhitaryan was involved in the third goal.
He fed the ball to Kolasinac on the left, and his low cross for Aubameyang was perfect for him to tap home in front of goal. Our top scorer then celebrated his 22nd of the season by donning a Black Panther mask.
It gave us a bit of breathing space, and we began to create more chances to kill off the game. Aubameyang missed two decent chances to wrap up his hat-trick, but in the end it didn't matter. We had got the job done with a thoroughly professional performance.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
We are in the hat for the quarter-final draw of the Europa League, alongside Chelsea, Napoli, Valencia, Benfica, Frankfurt, Slavia Prague and Villarreal.
The draw takes place at midday (UK time) on Friday, and we will also find out our potential semi-final opponents at the same time.
Our next game is more than two weeks away, against Newcastle United at Emirates Stadium on Monday, April 1. The next round of the Europa League will be played on April 11 and 18.
In the meantime the team are flying out for a week-long training camp in Dubai next Thursday, and will play a friendly against Al-Nasr Dubai SC before heading back.
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