1 - 0 Mikel Arteta (pen) 25'
2 - 0 Alexis Sanchez 29'
3 - 0 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 58'
3 - 1 Anthony Vanden Borre 61'
3 - 2 Anthony Vanden Borre 73'
3 - 3 Aleksandar Mitrovic 89'
What was shaping up to be a walk in the park tonight ended up being anything but.
Early on Arsenal looked lively and full of spirit as they displayed cohesion coupled with dangerous runs and shots. While a bit nervy in the back while defending counters, they looked much sharper than the last time they faced Anderlecht.
Halfway through the first half, Alexis fed Welbeck as he was driving towards Anderlecht's back four, and the Englishman snuck in behind Chancel Mbemba in the penalty box to run on to the pass. Mbemba tripped up Welbeck while trying to close him down and the official rightfully awarded Arsenal a penalty. Up stepped the captain to the spot who calmly slotted his attempt past the keeper.
Just a couple minutes later, Alexis Sanchez continued his streak of doing fantastic, wonderful things on the pitch, winning a free kick just outside the penalty box following a brilliant run. His free kick slammed against the wall but do you think that'd stop Alexis? Hell no, you dummies. The ball bounced high off the wall, and Alexis fired a low, screaming shot off the bounce in to put Arsenal up two. I'm looking forward to Alexis's upcoming book entitled "How To Do Good Soccer Really Good and Other Fun Soccer Stuff."
More Arsenal fun following the restart. Alexis won the ball in a tackle deep in Anderlecht's half which ricocheted perfectly to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox sprinted on goal with only a single defender chasing him, and netted Arsenal's third goal on a lovely shot low and right of the keeper's reach.
Arsenal were wrongly robbed of their clean sheet a few minutes later, but it could be argued that Nacho Monreal was guilty of ball watching as Anthony Vanden Borre easily put away a low cross across the face of the goal.
Immediately after Anderlecht's goal Arteta hobbled off with an apparent hamstring injury, replaced by Mathieu Flamini. The way he hobbled off the pitch coupled with the look on his face suggests this isn't something that ice alone after the match will solve. His inclusion in the starting lineup following his earlier injury this season and the subsequent fluid play within the team isn't a coincidence, and it was especially noticeable following his exit today. Hopefully his absence won't be too prolonged.
Following their goal, Anderlecht started to apply more pressure on Arsenal's defense, and yet again Monreal was guilty of shoddy defending. He felled Aleksander Mitrovic in the box, apparently slipping while attempting to defend the Serbian, and was fortunate he was only given a yellow card after grabbing the official in disbelief of the penalty call. Vanden Borre netted his second of the night from the penalty spot.
More dominating play by the hosts, then the inevitable happened right at the 90th minute when Mitrovic beat Per Mertesacker at the near post and headed home a cross past Wojeich Szczesny.
Just like that, as fun as the first half was, the second half was unbearable. Considering Borussia Dortmund did their part and put away Galatasaray tonight, this was Arsenal's chance to secure advancement. Now they welcome Dortmund next in a match they desperately need a result in.
This sport really wears on you sometimes, and tonight was one of those times.