Mesut to start – thank funk for that.
In need of a goal, the team started really well. Wobbly had a chance to shoot immediately. Only a few minutes had gone when Bate scored – in their own net, the defenders confused – not realising that, since it was Auba crossing the ball, nobody would be in the middle.
Frustratingly the foot then came off the pedal. Either that or Bate realised that an away goal was their best chance and upped their game. One in the side netting and then one off the line cleared by Lichtsteiner. As usual Arsenal allowed the poorest of opposition good chances.
Gradually we regained superiority. Xhaka had a cracking pot shot. Just before half time and after a succession of short corners which produced diddly squat, Xhaka planted one into the perfect spot for Shirley to fool the defender and then get in front of his man, bulleting a close range header for 2-0. Superb celebration from the master carpenter!
After a bit of Keystone cop defending in the first few minutes after the break and a few heart flutters, the result was never really in doubt once that half time malaise had worn off.
Papa majestically finished off another Granit corner launched right into the mix. Shirley put the goalie off and the big Greek planted the ball into a gaping net with the back of his swede.
Auba struggled to find a goal but he could have played all night and not scored. Saving them for Southampton on Sunday, I hope. Mesut scuffed a relatively simple volley with the goal at his mercy but the three goals would have to suffice, and they did.
Job done. Relatively straightforward in the end. Bate had two decent chances to get the away goal they craved but we really should have had more to show for such dominant superiority. An OG and two headed goals from corners from 22 efforts on goal did prove enough to put us in the last 16 though.
The draw for the round of 16 is today at 12 noon GMT. There are a few teams we’d miss ideally, though we’ll have to beat some good teams if we’re going to win it, no doubt.
Cech – nowt to do … 7
Lichtsteiner – looked more like his experienced professional self against the Belarusians … 7
Mustafi – excellent header – relatively untroubled throughout and even showed some composure on the ball … 7
Koscielny – class again – hope his injury isn’t too serious … 8
Monreal – battled manfully – love his commitment to the cause … 7
Xhaka – available throughout – passing excellent – went a little anonymous when moved forward to accommodate Torreira but two assists and plenty of great work – loved how he defended Nacho from the thuggery near the end… 8
Guendouzi – enjoyed himself – he’s going to be some player if he continues progressing at this rate … 7
Ozil – class – his movement is incredible – mind you, the opposition weren’t up to much … 7
Mkhitaryan – a bit lightweight – he really should be able to shine in these sort of games … 6
Aubameyang – poor Auba – a goal was never going to come, nevertheless he competed well and came deep when nothing was fed to him in the area – the dink over the keeper near the end should have ended up in the back of the net … 7
Iwobi – always a threat, just lacked that killer final ball …7
Sokratis – he was good enough that Kos wasn’t missed and he also popped up with the decisive third … 7
Torreira – not sure why he was brought on for Matteo, contributed little of note – a run out, I suppose … 6
Suarez – late sub to give him a run also – inconclusive … 6
Emery – got the job done – picked Mesut for a game against lowly opposition and it was the right decision – lovely heartfelt goal celebrations … 8
Wagner – should go back to Huddersfield … 6