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Podolski stunner helps Gunners into knock-out stages again

There will be no need to worry about permutations round the Emirates, no fear of mathematics. Arsenal progressed to the knockout stage in the Champions League with an ease that contrasted with the manager-shredding traumas suffered by their west London rivals.

A brace of splendid goals from Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski will allow Arsene Wenger once more to bask in what counts as achievement in his job description.

Who needs trophies when you can boast a 13th straight qualification for Europe's principal knockout? Wenger will also be able to point out that not only have his Arsenal progressed while others have not, but that both Arsenal's goals were things of splendour.

The first came soon after the interval, following excellent work by their captain and emergency left-back Thomas Vermaelen. Receiving a pass from Podolski, he showed a winger's touch to confound a defender and create himself some space.

He crossed, Olivier Giroud leaped above his marker, nodded down and the busy Wilshere stole in to flick the ball over the visiting 'keeper Geoffrey Jourdren.


That, though, was but the appetiser. In the 64th minute came a stunning second by Podolski. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had jinked to the edge of the Montpellier area before being brought to his knees by a snappy tackle. Not before he had pushed the ball to Podolski, who indulged in a lovely exchange of passes with Giroud before he sent a looping, left-foot volley past the marooned and despondent Jourdren.

In truth it is not what anybody was expecting in the stadium. Wenger is not renowned for his use of the hairdryer, but clearly words had been delivered in the dressing-room. Neat, decisive, brilliantly executed, the goals were in sharp contrast to what had gone on in the preceding half.

Wenger wrote in his programme notes that he hoped the weekend's derby victory over Tottenham would stoke his team's confidence and kick-start the next phase of their season.

But if Montpellier were there for the taking, Arsenal made heavy going of it to start with. For most of the first half, the home team's passing was horribly awry.

In the second half, however, Arsenal upped their game, and the home supporters were sent home with a striking visual image playing in their minds of that second goal. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent