Arsenal bash beleaguered Braga
Fabregas fires Gunners to convincing victory at the Emirates
By James Riach. Last Updated: 16/09/10 9:15am
Fabregas scores from the penalty spot
Arsenal kicked off their UEFA Champions League campaign with a supremely convincing 6-0 rout over Portuguese runners-up Braga.
A side that knocked out both Celtic and Sevilla in the qualifying rounds were expected to put up more of a fight at the Emirates, but when Cesc Fabregas scored from the penalty spot after goalkeeper Felipe brought down Marouane Chamakh in the ninth minute, it was all one-way traffic thereafter.
Andrey Arshavin doubled the lead on the half-hour mark with a cool finish before Chamakh put the result beyond any doubt four minutes later, latching onto a Jack Wilshere back-heel and slotting home.
After the break the onslaught continued and the imperious Fabregas nodded in to make it four on 53 minutes, before substitute Carlos Vela deftly lifted the ball over the keeper for the fifth.
Vela then completed the scoring with a composed finish in the 84th minute after good work from Fabregas yet again - the Spaniard now certainly back to his best.
While sterner tests will lie ahead for Arsene Wenger's side, both at home and in Europe, the young Gunners showed again this could just be the season they finally come of age.
Wenger, still with plenty to say about Stuart Attwell's performance in the Premier League win over Bolton on Saturday, had talked about the different style of European refereeing in the build-up to the match.
However, the Gunners boss will no doubt have been just as unimpressed by Luxembourg official Alain Hamer's early decision not to award what appeared a penalty after Fabregas was bundled over by Paulo Cesar in the opening exchanges.
Arsenal, though, were soon in full flow as Fabregas released Jack Wilshere into the Braga box, only for the youngster to be halted by a marginal offside flag.
The hosts, however, did not have to wait long to take the lead. Fabregas was again the creator, slipping Chamakh ahead of the static Braga backline.
The Moroccan, who has impressed since his summer arrival on a free transfer from Bordeaux, sidestepped keeper Felipe, only to be brought crashing down.
The Arsenal captain stepped up to dispatch the resulting penalty - celebrating his first goal of a season which could well have started at Barcelona by kissing the badge in front of the Clock End faithful.
It was almost 2-0 moments later when Arshavin combined with Fabregas to tee up Wilshere, but his close-range shot was well saved.
Braga - nicknamed 'Arsenal do Minho' because the clubs share the same home colours - boasted six Brazilians in their XI, although none had a full international cap.
Nevertheless, a team which had knocked out both Celtic and experienced campaigners Sevilla en route to Europe's elite for the first time deserved some respect.
Cesar's deflected effort forced Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia to make a reaction save, before Alan scampered away down the right ahead of Fabregas but his low cross flew through the six-yard box.
Slowly, Arsenal began to get back on top and it was no surprise when Arshavin made it 2-0 on the half-hour.
The Russian had missed some straightforward chances against Bolton, but made no mistake this time when driving an angled shot under the keeper after being played into the left side of the Braga penalty area.
Before the visitors could regroup, they were further behind. Another sweeping Arsenal move saw the ball worked across field and to the edge of the 18-yard box.
Arshavin's chip picked out Chamakh, who played a neat one-two with Wilshere and swept the ball into the net.
The interval offered little respite to Braga, who went 4-0 down at the start of the second half when Fabregas headed in Arshavin's chip to the far post.
The Gunners captain was then denied a hat-trick by the deftest of touches from keeper Felipe and an acrobatic goalline clearance by Moises.
As the hour mark passed, and with one eye on Saturday's trip to Sunderland, Wenger replaced Chamakh and defensive midfielder Alex Song, as Vela and Denilson came on.
Arsenal remained dominant as Arshavin rattled the base of the post with a fierce angled drive, this time cutting in from the right.
The Russian then unselfishly played in Vela, who dispatched a neat chip into the far corner for his second goal in as many games.
Arshavin was also given a break, Emmanuel Eboue coming on for the final 20 minutes, as the Gunners coasted to another impressive victory, with Fabregas setting up Vela to slot home number six five minutes from time.
|Arsenal||Team Statistics||Sporting Braga|
|3||1st Half Goals||0|
|8||Shots on Target||2|
|3||Shots off Target||3|
UEFA Champions League
Wed 15th Sep - Group E
Bay Munich2 - 0Roma
Cluj2 - 1Basel
Wed 15th Sep - Group F
Marseille0 - 1Spartak Mos
Zilina1 - 4Chelsea
Wed 15th Sep - Group G
R Madrid2 - 0Ajax
AC Milan2 - 0Auxerre
Wed 15th Sep - Group H
Arsenal6 - 0Braga
Shak Donetsk1 - 0Partizan
UEFA Champions League Group A
UEFA Champions League Group B
UEFA Champions League Group C
|3||Zenit St. Petersburg||4||4|
UEFA Champions League Group D
UEFA Champions League Group E
UEFA Champions League Group F
|1||Paris St Germain||4||10|
UEFA Champions League Group G
UEFA Champions League Group H