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Match report: Arsenal 4, CSKA Moscow 1

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A great start to the Europa League quarterfinals.

Arsenal FC v CSKA Moskva - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final Leg One Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images,

Arsenal beat CSKA Moscow 4-1 in what turned out to be a wildly fun first game of the Europa League quarterfinals.

Within the first ten minutes, Henrikh Mkhitaryan put a shot into the side netting, and Aaron Ramsey was robbed when he was flagged offside after hitting one past CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev. Ramsey fixed the situation just a few minutes later, though, chipping it in after a delightful string of passes from Jack Wilshere to Mesut Özil to Hector Bellerin for the first score of the game.

But CSKA responded quickly, and after a needless foul by Laurent Koscielny on the edge of Arsenal’s 18-yard box, Aleksandr Golovin hit the resulting free kick over the wall and into the top corner, well beyond the reach of Petr Cech, to tie the game at 1-1.

After a few unsuccessful attempts on goal by both teams, Özil was tripped by Georgy Schennikov deep in CSKA’s box, and Alexandre Lacazette, starting his first game since coming back from a knee injury, stepped up to take the ensuing penalty kick. He put it straight down the middle past a diving Akinfeev, putting Arsenal back in front with the match only a quarter of the way over.

The game continued at its frantic pace, with Ramsey scoring Arsenal’s third just five minutes later. Rambo met a looping pass from Özil about two feet in the air and, as if the game hadn’t been entertaining enough already, hit a jumping backheel past Akinfeev to make it 3-1.

And the Gunners were still not done for the half—after an Arsenal break up the left side of the pitch, Lacazette collected a deflected Özil cross and put a fourth one past Afinkeev into the bottom corner of the goal.

CSKA, particularly Ahmed Musa, did manage to challenge Arsenal at the other end of the pitch a few times, but they weren’t able to add to their score. The half finally ended without any more goals, and Arsenal got a chance to catch their breath.

Rather than sitting back and protecting their lead, which has gotten them into trouble in the past, Arsenal kept looking for more goals in the second half. The game became somewhat chippier than it had been in the first forty-five minutes, with Schennikov, Musa, and Granit Xhaka getting yellow cards (in addition to Alan Dzagoev’s yellow from the first half). Worryingly, Mkhitaryan took a hard hit to his knee in one of those scraps, and Alex Iwobi took his place shortly afterward in the 61st minute. CSKA nearly scored as the game got back up to speed on a rebound off of Cech, but it was disallowed for offsides.

Arsenal missed a few good chances themselves, including a Ramsey shot that careened off the post, and in the 74th minute, Lacazette and Wilshere both came off for Danny Welbeck and Mohamed Elneny, respectively. Akinfeev made a few good saves, but both teams looked a bit gassed by the end of the ninety minutes, at least in comparison to how frenetically they had played in the first half, and the match ended 4-1.

Arsenal have a Premier League game against Southampton next, and they will play the second leg of this tie next Thursday in Moscow.