Gunners cruise into knockout stages

Arsenal 2 Standard Liege 0

Arsene Wenger got the perfect response he demanded as Arsenal secured a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Standard Liege at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners boss had called for his side to raise their game in the wake of a lacklustre defeat at Sunderland - and his pre-match rallying call had also included reminding Arsenal's World Cup hopefuls of just who pays their wages.

Even without injured Holland forward Robin van Persie, the Barclays Premier League side - who host leaders Chelsea on Sunday - had too much class for the Belgians.

First-half goals from Samir Nasri and Denilson, smashing in a 30-yard strike, set the Gunners on their way to the knockout stages of Europe's elite club competition for the 10th campaign in succession as they won Group H with a match to spare.

The tone had been set from kick-off as Arsenal started brightly with a string of quick-passing moves.

Nasri cut a pass back rather than shoot when played into the right side of the Standard penalty area after five minutes - by which time in Liege, the Gunners were already 2-0 behind.

Arsenal then somehow failed to put the ball in the net during a goalmouth scramble following a corner.

First, Andrey Arshavin's header was saved by Sinan Bolat, with Mexico teenager Carlos Vela, deployed tonight as the central striker, lashing the rebound against the post.

The Standard keeper then twice denied William Gallas' follow-up before Thomas Vermaelen drilled his shot towards the top corner - only for the ball to cannon off Arshavin on the goalline.

Emmanuel Eboue went down under what looked minimal, if any, contact from Eliaquim Mangala, but Austrian referee Konrad Plautz was having none of it.

The travelling Standard fans had seen little to cheer about during the opening 20 minutes, but were almost celebrating when Congo striker Dieudonne Mbokani rattled the angle after cutting inside from the edge of the Arsenal area.

Arsenal were, though, soon back in the ascendancy.

Arshavin headed over, and in the process, collided with Gallas, which left both men needing treatment and Arsenal temporarily down to nine men.

Gallas came back on nursing a cut to his eye, while Arshavin needed some staples to close up a bloody gash on the top of his head.

As the Russian jogged back along the near touchline, Arsenal took the lead on 35 minutes.

Vermaelen's long ball forwards was missed by Landry Mulemo after the defender slipped on the edge of the penalty area, which allowed Nasri in, and he made no mistake, lashing a half-volley past Bolat.

Arshavin almost doubled the lead when his first-time shot from the edge of the box flew only inches wide.

There was, on 39 minutes, an almighty let-off for Arsenal when Gallas clearly bundled over Reginal Goreux as he dashed into the penalty area - but the referee waved play on.

In first-half stoppage time, Denilson - just returning from a back injury - crashed home a second goal from 30 yards, the ball swerving through the air as it flew over Bolat to give the young Brazilian something to remember in his 100th Arsenal appearance.

Gallas was replaced for the second half by veteran Mikael Silvestre, making only his fourth appearance of the season.

Standard midfielder Axel Witsel - who has served a lengthy ban following an X-rated tackle which left Anderlecht's Marcin Wasilewski with a broken leg - collected a quick free-kick on his chest, but, just four yards out, could not guide the ball past Manuel Almunia.

On the hour, Nasri made way as Wenger introduced Theo Walcott, the England forward hoping to keep fit for the rest of the campaign as he targets a place in Fabio Capello's World Cup squad.

Walcott almost had an instant impact when he drove a low shot across goal from a tight angle.

Standard substitute Gohi Bi Cyriac struck the base of the post, before the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez pushed his forehead into the face of Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas, who creditably did not go down, and was shown a straight red card.

Arsenal created chances to add a third, through Eboue and Alex Song, but had already done enough to make sure of safe progress ahead of next month's trip to Olympiacos.

News
David Beckham
peopleFootballer joins No campaign
Sport
Angel Di Maria
Football
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
film
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
News
newsIn short, yes
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

Arts and Entertainment
art
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories