Arsenal hit Lens for six to reach Champions League last 16
LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP)— Arsenal powered into the Champions League last 16 as Group B winners after a four-goal blitz in the space of 14 minutes inspired their 6-0 rout of hapless Lens on Wednesday.
Mikel Arteta’s side needed one point to be certain of reaching the knockout stages, but they didn’t settle for that target as they demolished their overmatched French opponents on a freezing night at the Emirates Stadium.
Kai Havertz, Gabriel Jesus, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli all netted inside the first 27 minutes.
Martin Odegaard added the fifth just before the interval and Jorginho bagged his first goal for Arsenal with a late penalty to cap their biggest win this season.
With one game to spare, the Gunners are guaranteed to finish in first place as they sit four points clear of PSV Eindhoven.
PSV clinched the second qualification place from the group thanks to Lens’ loss and their win at Sevilla earlier on Wednesday.
Securing pole position in the group means Arsenal will have the advantage of a home tie in the last 16 second leg.
“I didn’t even dream of this. We had the chance to qualify and top the group. We did it in a beautiful way,” Arteta said.
“We showed a lot of aggression. It’s great that we are able to win this way. We have been so good at home in Europe, scoring a lot of goals and not conceding any.
“We believe we can do it against big opponents. Now we wait to see who we face next.”
Arteta admitted this week that he still has something to prove in Europe as he tackles his first Champions League campaign as a manager.
This was a significant statement of intent from Arteta, whose team have won four of their five group games and look capable of challenging for the club’s maiden Champions League crown.
With Arsenal also sitting top of the Premier League, it is shaping up to be a thrilling season for the north Londoners.
It was a miserable night for eliminated Lens, whose fans appeared to throw a flare into an Arsenal section of the stadium, while another flare and missiles were launched onto the pitch towards the Gunners players.
“We know these sort of games can become complicated very quickly. There was a huge difference between us and Arsenal. They are consistent at a very high level,” Lens boss Franck Haise said.
Lens had inflicted Arsenal’s only group stage defeat in October, but the Gunners made amends with a total demolition.
Arsenal launched their goal spree in the 13th minute when Jesus nodded Takehiro Tomiyasu’s cross down to Havertz and he poked past slow to react keeper Brice Samba from close range for his second goal in two games.
They were the grateful beneficiaries of more awful Lens defending in the 21st minute.
Saka’s darting run took him to the edge of the area, where a pair of Lens defenders collided as the ball squirted through to Jesus, whose deft touch wrong-footed the bewildered visitors before he slotted home from 12 yards.
Arsenal were rampant and, with Lens in complete disarray, it was little surprise they scored again two minutes later.
Martinelli surged into the area for a shot that Samba could only parry out towards Saka, who knew little about the deflection that carried the ball past the Lens keeper.
Arteta’s men weren’t finished yet and Martinelli tormented Przemyslaw Frankowski with a twisting run before curling a superb finish into the far corner in the 27th minute.
Putting the seal on their first half masterclass, Arsenal struck for the fifth time in stoppage time as Tomiyasu’s cross picked out Odegaard, who punished Lens’ nonexistent marking with a clinical finish.
Jorginho made it six in the 86th minute when he stroked home a penalty after a handball by Abduqodir Khusanov.