Ludogorets Razgrad 2 Arsenal 3
Cafu 12, Keseru 15, Xhaka 20, Giroud 41 Özil 87

Arsenal qualified for the Champions League knock out stages for the 17th time after a thrilling display against Ludogorets in Sofia on Tuesday evening. Stunned by the Bulgarian Champions with two quick fire goals three minutes apart from Cafu and Keseru, the Gunners fired back, halving the deficit through Granit Xhaka, and then levelling through Olivier Giroud just before half time. With Arsenal prodding and prowling for a winner, three minutes before the end they got their reward with a superb winner from Mesut Özil. Before then, David Ospina twice saved from Wanderson as the home side looked for revenge for the 6-0 thrashing they were handed two weeks ago in London. Özil however ensured that didn’t happen. Put through on goal the still had some work to do. He flicked the ball over the on rushing Borjan, then dumped two defenders onto their backsides before finishing into the open net. Özil’s late strike sent the Gunners through to the knock out stages. Arsene Wenger’s side have gone out at the first knockout stage of the Champions League in the past six seasons, having last won their group in 2011 / 12.

This win means that Arsenal remain top of Group A, despite Paris Saint Germain overcoming ten man Basle to win 2-1 in Switzerland. The top two clash at the Emirates stadium in three weeks, and Arsenal will be keen to finish in top spot of Group A for the draw of last 16 of the Champions League which takes place in December.

Arsenal lined up with Giroud leading the front line with Alexis Sanchez switching to wide left. Both players netted twice in Saturday’s 4-1 demolition of Sunderland. Carl Jenkinson came in at right back, with Aaron Ramsey playing for the first time since his Premier League opening day injury sustained against Liverpool. Despite their 6-0 mauling in the first encounter, Ludogrets looked lively in that London encounter, as they did here. When the Arsenal defence didn’t deal with Wanderson’s free-kick, Cafu was on hand to strike past David Ospina after 12 minutes. Three minutes later and Cafu turned provider, teasing Kieran Gibbs before setting up Keseru to put Ludogorets 2-0 up.

There was however panic in the Gunners’ ranks, as Özil crossed for Xhaka to score from 15 yards out. Fresh from his headed goal at the stadium of Light, Giroud then timed his run and rise to precision as he headed past Borjan from Gibbs’ cross. 2-2 and Arsenal were in the ascendancy. Özil had visibly urged his team mates to respond, and maybe he was feeling the after affects of not scoring earlier on when put through by Francis Coquelin. Still, three minutes from time and substitute Mohamed Elneny found Özil with a deep pass from midfield.

Özil, calm and composed, eased the ball over the onrushing Borjan, and with the close control of a magician, mesmerised the attentions of the last two green shirted defenders, before dumping then on their behinds, to then coolly slot home the winning goal for Arsenal. The German is the extra quality link in this Arsenal side. Implored by Wenger to be more lethal in front of goal, Özil is responding. He has now been directly involved in eight goals in his past five games for Arsenal in all competitions, with five goals and three assists.

Wenger saluted Özil and his winning goal. ” You know, I would say the great players make the right decisions in the game situations they face. They always make the optimal solution. To me it didn’t look for a while like the optimal solution, but when the ball was in the net I thought it was! You wanted him to take maybe his chance earlier but at the end he had enough skill to prove that he was right.”

Arsenal’s November includes Sunday’s crucial North London derby when Spurs arrive at the Emirates, then a trip to Old Trafford following the international break, and then that Champions League top of the table clash against PSG at the Emirates.

Recent results suggest that the Gunners will continue to fire on all fronts.