Recap: Arsenal kept their hopes alive of progressing to the Champions League knockout phase with a convincing 3-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb at the Emirates Stadium. Needing to beat their Croatian visitors and have Olympiakos fail to get anything from their trip to Bayern Munich, Arsene Wenger’s side enjoyed as stress-free a night as they could have imagined with both results comfortably going their way.
The results also mean that Dinamo Zagreb have been eliminated, not just from the Champions League but also from contention to secure third place and a spot in the Europa League. The Croatian champions had beaten Arsenal 2-1 in the reverse fixture in September to start what has been a tumultuous campaign for the Premier League side. But, missing players to suspension and a doping ban following a failed test after the first match between the sides, Dinamo found themselves outclassed on Tuesday.
In Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez, Arsenal had two players in a whole different league to anything Dinamo could offer up. And it was fitting that the pair, who combined for some delightful exchanges throughout the contest, got the goals.
After a nervy start, Arsenal increasingly began to pin their cautious opponents back and find the gaps in their defense. It was a stirring counter attack that provided the opening goal just before the half-hour mark, when Sánchez crossed in from the left and Özil stooped to head in from close range. Four minutes later Arsenal’s lead was doubled. This time it was largely of Dinamo’s own making, as a sloppy pass out of defense was seized upon by Nacho Monreal, who squared for Sánchez to apply a simple finish.
And with 21 minutes remaining the result was put beyond any doubt. Joel Campbell’s fine run and pass set up Sánchez to round Dinamo goalkeeper Roberto and slot into the net. While Wenger will be relieved, he must also been wondering why Arsenal couldn’t have performed with such conviction back in Croatia.
FULLTIME! Arsenal 3-0 Dinamo Zagreb
That was as comfortable a night as Arsenal could have wished for. A goal from Mesut Ozil and two from Alexis Sanchez, who were both exceptional on the night, secured a victory at the Emirates, and in Munich Bayern got the win over Olympaiakos that Arsenal needed. Despite their torrid start to the Champions League group phase, Arsenal will now go to Olympiakos in two week’s time needing to overturn their 3-2 defeat to the Greek side at the Emirates to reach the last 16.
90 mins: Two minutes of injury time to be played.
88 mins: Inches away from a glorious fourth goal for Arsenal. Once again it’s their two star men who combine, with Sanchez lifting a sumptuous pass over the Dinamo defense for Ozil, but the former Real Madrid man just can’t flick his backward header on target.
82 mins: Arsenal make their final changes, with Cazorla and Bellerin going off and Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers coming on. Wenger said ahead of the match that he thought Chambers could fill in in midfield, and we're going to get a chance to see him in that position now.
80 mins: Hector Bellerin is determined to get in on the fin in the last few minutes, and is constantly charging forward down the right flank. He really should have been played in by Campbell just moments ago, but the Costa Rican opted to try and find Ramsey with a difficult pass through the middle.
77 mins: Arsenal have a strong appeal for a penalty after being clearly tripped by goalkeeper Eduardo. Hard to see what the referee was thinking in not awarding a spot-kick there.
76 mins: Sanchez has just produced the most ridiculous piece of control you’re likely to see this season, The Chilean takes down a long ball forward on his back before continuing to drive forward. That was quite something.
Here's Sanchez making it 3-0 to Arsenal.
72 mins: So close to to a goal back from Dinamo. Laurent Koscielny clears the ball straight against Flamini, leaving Cech having to make a smart save low to his right to prevent an own goal. Marko Rog then puts the rebound wide.
GOAL! Arsenal 3-0 Dinamo Zagreb (Sanchez, 69)
That’s surely the game wrapped up now for Arsenal. Campbell does really well driving in across the edge of the box from the right flank before playing a delightfully disguised pass in behind the Dinamo defense. Sanchez takes it into his path, rounds Eduardo and supplies the finish to get his second goal of the match.
67 mins: Arsenal make their first change, with Olivier Giroud getting the rest of the night off and Aaron Ramsey coming on to make his return from injury. It looks like Sanchez is going to move into the striker’s role, with Ramsey going on the left.
66 mins: Arsenal threaten on the break, but Dinamo captain Domagoj Antolić does very well to prevent Ozil from having a chance to tap into an unguarded net.
64 mins: Campbell strikes an opportunistic, ambitious volley wide of the target on his right foot. That would have been some goal if he had made a better connection.
63 mins: Dinamo haven’t given up hope, and are still showing purpose going forward. But the quality has been lacking in the final third so far. If Dinamo were to get back into this match it would keep their hopes alive of beating Arsenal to a Europe League place.
57 mins: Dinamo deliver a warning to Arsenal about the dangers of complacency. Machado cuts in from the left and fires a shot dangerously across goal that’s deflected just wide of Petr Cech’s goal. A goal back for the Croatians and things could suddenly get very nervy at the Emirates.
54 mins: Arsenal with some neat interchanges on the edge of the Dinamo box culminates with a low cross from Mathieu Flamini that Giroud couldn’t adjust to turn on target at the near post.
52 mins: Dinamo with their best spell of possession for some time, although they’re still not showing a great urgency to get forward and overturn their deficit. That caution may be understandable, given the threat of Arsenal on the break, which has already led to one goal.
47 mins: Cazorla takes the invitation to drive forward toward the edge of the box, before unleashing a fierce left-footed drive that Eduardo can only parry behind. From the corner, Dinamo’s Portuguese goalkeeper has to again be alert to keep out a header from Giroud. Arsenal looking to make this game completely safe early in the second half.
Second Half Kickoff! Arsenal get the game back underway, leading Dinamo Zagreb 2-0.
Here's another look at those two first-half goals:
HALFTIME: Arsenal 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb
Arsenal have the game completely under control, after goals from Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez reflected their growing dominance of the contest. And Arsene Wenger’s side are also getting the result they need in Munich, with Bayern 3-0 up on Olympiakos. As things stand, Arsenal will travel to Olympiakos in two weeks’ time needing to better the Greek side’s 3-2 win at the Emirates in order to progress. In the second half, Arsenal now just need to avoid the sort of collapse that has not exactly been completely foreign to them in the past.
43 mins: Ozil comes agonizingly close to making it 3-0 once again. Cazorla sets up Monreal down the left, and his low cross is met by Ozil, but Eduardo makes another impressive save.
40 mins: It really should have been 3-0 for Arsenal. Ozil breaks through a couple of poor challenges to get through on goal, but the German’s effort is helped wide courtesy of some fine goalkeeping from Eduardo.
37 mins: Arsenal, and especially the brilliant Ozil, are really in the mood now. If Dinamo aren’t careful this could get humiliating in a hurry.
And Sanchez's strike:
Here's the opening goal from Ozil:
GOAL! Arsenal 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb (Sanchez, 33)
It’s a disaster for Dinamo. Just four minutes after falling behind, defender Leonardo Sigali gifts the ball away right on the edge of his own box and within seconds the ball is in his own net. Nacho Monreal intercepted and crossed low for Sanchez to apply the simple finish to get his first goal in six matches and surely send Arsenal on the way to victory.
GOAL! Arsenal 1-0 Dinamo Zagreb (Ozil, 29)
Arsenal take full advantage of a rare foray forward from the visitors to launch a devastating counter attack. Sanchez was the creator, playing a delightful ball in from the left flank, which missed the head of Olivier Giroud, but found Ozil, who stooped to head past Eduardo from six yards. That should be the decisive moment in this match, with Dinamo now having to come out of their shell a bit more, potentially leaving more gaps for Arsenal to exploit.
26 mins: Dinamo’s backline is playing very narrow, and with the wide midfielders dropping back, there almost playing a back six at times. Campbell, who has been left out of the Arsenal lineup for the last couple of matches, has looked the biggest threat so far, cutting in from wide on the right.
24 mins: Arsenal with a decent spell of pressure, as Dinamo goalkeeper Eduardo is forced to palm away a corner before Ozil has a cross cut out. Arsenal need to keep the tempo high and move a well-organized Dinamo team out of position.
22 mins: It's now 3-0 to Bayern Munich thanks to Thomas Muller. Barring a sensational comeback from Olympiakos, Arsenal will keep their Champions League knockout hopes alive, if they can beat Dinamo Zagreb.
19 mins: Arsenal are still struggling to find a breakthrough, but Bayern are fulfilling their part of the bargain. Robert Lewandowski has now put them 2-0 up against Olympiakos. A win for Arsenal and it now looks like there's a very good chance that second place in the group will go down to the last round of fixtures.
17 mins: It’s worth pointing out that while Arsenal hardly come into the match in ideal circumstances, the situation has been far more serious for Dinamo Zagreb. Not only have they lost key midfielder Arijan Ademi to a four-year ban after he failed a doping test following the first match with Arsenal, but the club has been engulfed in political and legal turmoil. Club president Zdravko Mamic was arrested last week over alleged tax evasion and bribery.
12 mins: That looked like it was going to be the opening goal for Arsenal. Campbell played a fine ball through to Sanchez with space in the penalty box, but the Chilean’s touch betrayed him and Dinamo were able to get a foot in to avert the danger. More promising signs now for the home side.
10 mins: Some good news for Arsenal from Munich, where Bayern have taken an early lead against Olympiakos through Douglas Costa. Arsenal need Olympiakos to lose to make the result at the Emirates count for anything.
9 mins: Dinamo may be set up cautiously, but when they do go forward they’re doing so with intent and causing Arsenal some anxiety.
7 mins: There’s Arsenal’s first effort of the match, although it’s no threat to the Dinamo goal. Campbell gets to the byline down the right and pulls the ball back for Cazorla, but the Spaniard’s effort was reminiscent of his woefully mishit penalty on Saturday.
6 mins: Arsenal produce their first good spell of possession of the match, with Cazorla and Ozil combinbing to find Sanchez, but the Chilean slipped as he was looking to engineer some space on the edge of the box. Already clear that Dinamo’s plan is to get every man behind the ball, including striker Marko Rog, before countering at pace.
3 mins: Arsenal haven’t got going yet, and Dinamo are having a lot of joy going down their right flank, winning another corner. Arsenal, very sloppy in the early exchanges, clear unconvincingly.
1 min: Dinamo Zagreb make a good start and in the first 35 seconds Laurent Koscielny has to clear a dangerous cross behind for a corner.
KICKOFF! Dinamo Zagreb get what is a must-win game for both clubs underway.
2:43 p.m. EST: Players out on the pitch for the Champions League anthem. Kickoff just a couple of minutes away now.
2:18 p.m. EST: Here's the tactical lineups for both teams:
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 24, 2015
1:51 p.m. EST: Arsenal make two changes from the lineup that lost at West Brom on Saturday, with Mathieu Flamini replacing the injured Francis Coquelin and Joel Campbell returning to the side in place of Kieran Gibbs.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) November 24, 2015
Preview: Arsenal will be fighting for their Champions Leagues lives when they host Dinamo Zagreb at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday. Not since 1999 have Arsenal failed to make it into the last 16 of Europe’s premier competition, but anything other than a win against the Croatian champions and that’s the fate that will befall Arsene Wenger’s side. Indeed, even a victory may not be enough.
Arsenal enter the contest with just three points from their four matches, trailing both Olympiakos and Bayern Munich by six points with only two matches remaining. Therefore, if Olympiakos pick up any points in Munich on Tuesday then Arsenal will be eliminated and left to play for the consolation prize of a Europa League berth. Even wins for Bayern and Arsenal would leave Wenger’s men needing to win by two goals or secure a high-scoring one-goal win when they travel to face Olympiakos in two weeks’ time.
Arsenal’s problems in this season’s Champions League all began when facing Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia in September. Arsenal were expected by many to have little trouble making it through to the knockout stage, but slumped to a 2-1 defeat in Zagreb, followed by a 3-2 home defeat to Olympiakos. While they gave themselves hope with a home win over Bayern Munich, a 5-1 drubbing in Germany last time out means the London club’s fate has been taken out of their own hands.
Arsenal’s prospects are not helped by going into the return match with Dinamo facing an all-too familiar injury crisis. In a 2-1 defeat to West Brom on Saturday, Francis Coquelin and Mikel Arteta joined a lengthy list of absentees that already included Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, David Ospina and Tomas Rosicky. The one piece of positive news is the return of Aaron Ramsey, who is in contention to feature on Tuesday.
Dinamo Zagreb still have their own hopes of making the last 16, although even the greatest optimist would struggle to believe it is a realistic possibility. They would have to beat Arsenal, hope for an Olympiakos win in Munich and then beat Bayern by at least a five-goal margin in the final round of fixtures.
Check back here when the match kicks off at 2:45 p.m. EST for live score updates and video highlights from the key matchup.