Champions League

Arsenal advances with 2-0 win over Standard Liege

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Arsenal advanced to the Champions League knockout round after beating Standard Liege 2-0 with goals from Samir Nasri and Denilson in the first half on Tuesday.
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The victory means Arsenal has won Group H with one game to spare. Standard is left on four points, three behind second-place Olympiakos, but can still overtake the Greek club in the last round. It is the 10th consecutive season that Arsenal has qualified for the knockout round. The team also bounced back from a surprise defeat to Sunderland over the weekend in the English Premier League. "In this group, we were favorites," manager Arsene Wenger said. "We did the job. If you put the 10 years together, we have been consistent." Nasri broke the deadlock in a tense opening period after Standard defender Landry Mulemo slipped when trying to clear a long pass from Thomas Vermaelen. Nasri latched on to the ball and the France international fired past goalkeeper Sinan Bolat in the 35th minute. Arsenal had several other close efforts late in the first half before Denilson struck a swerving shot from 25 yards out that beat Bolat. Arsenal was down to 10 men for Nasri's goal with Andrei Arshavin receiving treatment on the sidelines for a gash that left blood streaming down his face after he and William Gallas collided while going up for a cross. Gallas had just came back on the pitch with a swollen right eye moments before the goal. Arsenal dominated the opening 20 minutes, and the clearest opportunity came in the 15th minute when a corner by captain Cesc Fabregas led to a chaotic three shots. Arshavin's effort was saved first and the ball fell to Carlos Vela, whose shot from close range hit the post. The ball then came to Thomas Vermaelen whose shot was deflected off the line by Arshavin's head. Alex Song, Nasri and Fabregas all had other efforts within the first five minutes. "We knew they would dominate the game," Standard manager Laszlo Boloni said. "We prepared for that. ... We had to adapt to Arsenal's game. One of my frustrations was that we made the game easy for them." Standard striker Dieudonne Mbokani nearly put the visitors ahead in the 22nd with a powerful volley that bounced off the corner of the crossbar. A free kick by Wilfried Dalmat seven minutes later went just wide. Standard also had a strong penalty claim after Reginal Goreux went down under a challenge from Gallas. Gallas was replaced by Mikael Silvestre at the start of the second half. Fabregas and substitute Theo Walcott had chances to increase Arsenal's lead, but the Gunners were happy to retain possession rather than exert themselves. Standard had a late chance when Mohamed Sarr hit a post. There were several intense battles in midfield during the second half and Fabregas was on the end of several crunching tackles. Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez was sent off after he attempted to headbutt Fabregas following a challenge on the Spain international. "I think Standard started to get nervous in the game and started to make bad tackles," Wenger said. Boloni criticized Carcela-Gonzalez for his altercation with Fabregas. "I'm really angry at the lack of respect he showed towards his teammates," Boloni said. "I gave him a speech. Don't worry about that." Standard's attacking options were limited because of injuries to two key players - forward Milan Jovanovic, a Serbia international, missed the match because of a left thigh strain while Brazil-born striker Igor de Camargo was sidelined with a broken toe. Arsenal left back Kieran Gibbs returned to the side after bruising an ankle with the England Under-21s last week, but hobbled off the pitch just moments before the final whistle with a broken bone in his left foot. He will undergo surgery on Wednesday and be sidelined for about three months.


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