Gunners blow Lens away and race into Champions League last 16
Arsenal 6 (Havertz 13, Jesus 21, Saka 23, Martinelli 27, Odegaard 45+1, Jorginho 86 (pen))
RC Lens 0
Arsenal cruised past RC Lens 6-0 at the Emirates this evening, with six different scorers, to cement their spot in the last-16 of the Champions League.
Goals from Kai Havertz, Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard got the job done before the break – the first time in the history of the competition that a side had registered five different scorers in the first half of any game.
Jorginho’s penalty rubbed salt into the French wounds at the end.
Four came in the first 27 minutes. Lens didn’t know what had hit them - and it could have been even more.
The Gunners were into their stride immediately. Havertz was inches away from opening the scoring when he headed Takehiro Tomiyasu’s cross back across gaol but just wide of the post.
However he didn’t have to wait long to open the scoring. Another cross, again from the right, was headed down by Jesus and Havertz was first to the rebound to poke it past Brice Samba. What a difference that goal at Brentford has made to his confidence.
From there, Arsenal simply blew the French side apart.
First came two goals in as many minutes. Saka won a bouncing ball inside the penalty area, and when the rebound fell to Jesus he looked to have a great chance to shoot with his left foot, but he held his nerve brilliantly to take another touch past his defender and finish with his right.
Then, from the very next attack, Samba made a meal of saving Martinelli’s shot from the left of the area, his parry hit Saka and rebounded back into the goal.
The fourth wasn’t long in coming, either. And it was probably the best of the lot. Martinelli twisted and turned his defender on the left, cut inside and curled a beauty into the top right-hand corner.
David Raya, back in after his absence against Brentford on Saturday, had to wait until the 39th minute before he had anything to do, punching away Angelo Fulgini’s free-kick.
A minute later, however, he was well beaten by Facundo Medina’s drive from outside the area, but the ball cannoned back off the post.
However, just as Lens were having their best spell of the game, Arsenal made it 5-0. Odegaard ran on to a Tomiyasu cross from the right and volleyed in a left foot shot just before the break.
A host of substitutions inevitably followed, and Reiss Nelson almost scored with his first touch but couldn’t quite turn in Havertz’s cross from the left.
As is so often the case when a game is over at half-time, the second period produced virtually nothing – the Gunners content to simply avoid any injuries, the Frenchmen to prevent the scoreline getting even worse, before Jorginho made it six from the spot following a handball spot by VAR.
Arsenal are making up for lost time. Since Arsene Wenger guided them to 19 successive seasons at Europe’s top table they have missed out on six successive occasions.
But you get the feeling they want to make the most of this first year back.
Their performances in the Premier League have not been altogether convincing so far – not bad for a team which sit top of the table.
But it is in the Champions League where their most eye-catching performance have come so far this term. They smashed PSV 4-0 in their first game and, despite a 2-1 reverse in northern France, have since had two wins against a strong Sevilla side who have disappointed in this group.
But this win was the best of the lot, and the Gunners can now relax, top of the Premier League and into the last 16 of the Champions League with a game to spare.
Playing like this, who knows what riches a new year could bring?
Arsenal: Raya, Saliba, Gabriel (Kiwior h/t), Saka (Nelson 66), Odegaard, Jesus (Nketiah 82), Martinelli, Tomiyasu (White h/t), Havertz, Zinchenko, Rice (Jorginho 75)
Lens: Samba, Danso, Abdul Samed (Aynaoui 45), Sotoca (Thomasson 45), Wahi, Fulgini, Medina (Mechado 45) Haidara, Gradit (Husanov 62), Mendy (Pereira Da Costa 75), Frankowski
Referee: Artur Dias (Portugal)