Arsenal turned on the style to crush 10-man Villarreal 3-0 in their Champions League quarter-final second leg on Wednesday.
After spluttering through much of the season, Arsene Wenger’s side are coming good at just the right time and their 4-1 aggregate victory was deserved reward for a ruthless performance.
Theo Walcott gave Arsenal the perfect start at the Emirates Stadium with a superb chip, before Togo forward Emmanuel Adebayor struck to put the Gunners in control after halftime.
Robin van Persie’s penalty underlined Arsenal’s superiority and Sebastian Eguren’s red card for complaining about the spot-kick only compounded Villarreal’s misery.
Adebayor’s stunning bicycle kick in Spain last week had given Arsenal a priceless away goal and Wenger’s players knew a 0-0 draw would be enough to send them through.
It was just as well Wenger hadn’t planned a rearguard action as Arsenal were without an entire back-four — William Gallas, Gael Clichy and Johan Djourou were all injured, while Bacary Sagna pulled out late with a virus — as well as first choice keeper Manuel Almunia.
From the first minute they attacked. Walcott surged away down the right and, after Adebayor just failed to reach his low cross, van Persie’s header looped over.
Walcott’s next contribution in the 10th minute was even more effective. When Cesc Fabregas flicked a back-heel toward the England winger Diego Godin should have cleared, but he completely missed the ball. Walcott took full advantage and advanced into the penalty area before lofting a sublime chip over Diego Lopez.
Arsenal were desperately close to going further ahead when van Persie’s free-kick was parried by Lopez. Adebayor headed the rebound goalward, only for Gonzalo Rodriguez to clear off the line.
• Uni-President Lions 10,
Brother Elephants 8
• La New Bears v
• Brother Elephants v
Pellegrini’s team still only needed a goal to get back in the tie but, with influential Spain midfielder Marcos Senna injured and former Gunners winger Robert Pires lacking his old spark, they found it hard to generate any momentum.
Inspired by the imperious Fabregas, Arsenal kept pressing and Adebayor delivered the knockout blow on the hour.
Fabregas won a header in midfield that fell for van Persie and the Dutch forward sliced open Villarreal’s defense with a perfect pass to Adebayor, who kept his footing to slide a fine finish into the far corner.
In the 69th minute, Godin launched into a lunging tackle on Walcott, making contact with the ball just as he clattered into the winger.
Wolfgang Stark immediately awarded a penalty to the fury of Villarreal’s players, who surrounded the German referee. Stark lost his temper with their protests and sent off Eguren.
Van Persie wasn’t fazed by the fuss and calmly drove his penalty past Lopez to put the result beyond doubt.