Arsenal v Ludogorets – The story so far

Arsenal v Ludogorets - The story so far

By Rob Kelly at Emirates Stadium SUMMARY Two fine strikes from Alexis and Theo Walcott have put Arsenal in charge at the interval of their Champions League clash against Ludogorets. SETTING THE SCENE Arsenal came into the first of back-to-back games against the Bulgarian champions in fine fettle, with an inviting opportunity to take control of Group A. Ludogorets had never won away in the Champions League, and had only one victory in the competition in their history, a record that offered encouragement to in-form Gunners if they could take their chance. But the visitors’ impressive performances against Basel and Paris Saint-Germain had given Wenger plenty of food for thought, and left the manager pondering how much to rotate a winning team. He plumped for four changes, with David Ospina continuing as the Champions League goalkeeper and Kieran Gibbs replacing Nacho Monreal at left back. Elsewhere, Francis Coquelin returned to the starting XI after recovering from a knee injury sustained against Chelsea, with Granit Xhaka dropping to the bench. The final change saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rewarded for his eye-catching late cameo against Swansea with a starting berth on the left flank. FIRST HALF It did not take long for the Gunners to get into their stride, with Walcott looking particularly sharp in the early exchanges. The England international had seven goals to his name prior to kick off and soon had a chance to add to his tally but chose to square the ball rather than shoot after finding space in the area. The hosts continued to apply the pressure and they soon had their reward, as Alexis beat the Ludogorets offside trap, raced into the box and dinked the ball over Vladislav Stoyanov and into the far corner. It was a delightful finish that highlighted the confidence with which the Chilean – and the entire Arsenal team – is playing at present. Indeed, it also meant that Alexis had been involved in all four of our Champions League goals to that point, with two assists to add to his two strikes. But Ludogorets were determined to make life difficult for Wenger’s side and their movement in attack was giving the likes of Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi something to think about. The Brazilian triumverate of Marcelinho, Wanderson and Jonathan Cafu were full of pace and poise, and Ospina had to be alert to deny the latter two as the visitors began to grow in confidence. The Bulgarians had certainly burst to life, and Ospina was soon sharply off his line to steal the ball off the feet of Cafu as he looked to take it around the Colombian goalkeeper. It was a stark warning to Arsenal not to lose their focus, but Ludogorets were on the rise and came close to equalising as Cafu raced through, only for Ospina to race out and divert the ball away from danger. The Emirates crowd demanded more from their team, and the Gunners responded as Coquelin slipped the ball through to Walcott in the area, with the forward’s powerful effort palmed away by Stoyanov. But the Ludogrets goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent Walcott’s next effort, as the forward collected Gibbs’ pass outside the area, took a touch and then curled a stunning strike into the top corner. It was a fantastic strike that brought the Emirates crowd to their feet, and gave the hosts some breathing space after a somewhat disjointed first-half display.

Arsenal

13

Ospina

3

Gibbs

6

Koscielny

20

Mustafi

24

Bellerin

19

Cazorla

14

Walcott Goal!

11

Ozil

34

Coquelin

15

Oxlade-Chamberlain

7

Alexis Goal!

Substitutes

9

Lucas

33

Cech

5

Gabriel

18

Monreal

29

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