Arsenal 2-0 Montpellier: Clinical Gunners qualify with game to spare
Arsenal secured qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 2-0 home win over Montpellier.
Second-half goals for Jack Wilshere – his first in almost two years – and Lukas Podolski made sure of at least second place in Group B after leaders Schalke beat Olympiakos.
The Gunners must now win in Athens in a fortnight to stand any chance of finishing top and so head into the last 16 as one of the seeds.
Despite coach Rene Girard accepting their European hopes were all but over in his pre-match press conference, it was a positive start by the French visitors and there was little to chose between the two sides as the half-hour passed, Arsenal seeming content to have plenty of the ball without penetrating the visitors rearguard.
Podolski looked to fashion an opening himself when moving across the edge of the Montpellier penalty area, but then dragged his low shot back wide of the far post. But Montpellier fired a warning shot as half-time approached when Younes Belhanda broke clear and drilled a 20-yard effort just over the bar.
Arsenal took the lead just four minutes into the second half. Thomas Vermaelen floated a deep ball into the penalty area, which was knocked down by former Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud into the path of Wilshere, who lifted the ball over the goalkeeper.
The goal settled Arsenal down and they were soon on the offensive again with play flowing through Cazorla. And the London side made it 2-0 on 63 minutes after another swift counter by the hosts. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain carried the ball down the right, before feeding Giroud on the edge of the penalty area. The Frenchman exchanged a neat one-two with Podolski, who ran on to fire a sublime left-foot volley over Geoffrey Jourdren.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Arteta, Cazorla, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud, Podolski. Subs: Mannone, Ramsey, Coquelin, Arshavin, Jenkinson, Gervinho, Gibbs.
Montpellier: Jourdren, Deplagne, Congre, El Kaoutari, Bedimo, Yanga M’Biwa, Estrada, Cabella, Belhanda, Mounier, Charbonnier. Subs: Pionnier, Hilton, Marveaux, Herrera, Pitau, Jeunechamp, Martin.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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