Aubameyang double sends Arsenal to quarter-finals
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice to help send Arsenal into the Europa League quarter-finals, beating Rennes 3-0 at the Emirates (4-3 on aggregate).
Arsenal put in a disappointing performance in France a week ago, which saw Rennes lead the tie 3-1, but the hosts got off to a quick start as Aubameyang (5) and Ainsley Maitland-Niles (15) netted early on.
Aubameyang – who was superb in attack – then added his second of the evening as he slotted home in the 72nd minute to ensure Arsenal went through, winning 4-3 on aggregate.
They will now go into the quarter-final draw, which will take place on Friday, alongside fellow Premier League side Chelsea, who beat Dynamo Kyiv 8-0 on aggregate earlier in the day.
Arsenal needed to begin fast – and that is just what they did, going ahead inside five minutes. Aubameyang flicked Maitland-Niles’ pass for Aaron Ramsey, who himself darted down the right-hand side. He then put the ball across the face of goal and Aubameyang was waiting to tap home.
Ten minutes later, and the striker was involved again. Aubameyang did brilliantly to keep the ball in play after a loose pass from Ramsey, scooping it towards the back post, which allowed Maitland-Niles to emphatically head home.
Arsenal had two good chances after the half-an-hour mark. Aubameyang nearly scored a spectacular second, but his audacious over-head kick from Mesut Ozil’s cross went wide. Not long after, Ramsey sent a thundering shot straight into the hands of Rennes goalkeeper Tomas Koubek.
It was another quick start to the second half, and it was Rennes who went close in the opening minutes. Mexer laid the ball off for Ismaila Sarr just inside the area, who hit a fierce drive, but Petr Cech got down well to push it onto the post and send it wide.
There were a few half chances as the game wore on, but Aubameyang nabbed his second in the 72nd minute to send Arsenal into the quarter-finals. Sead Kolasinac had done well going forward and did so again as he collected a pass from Henrikh Mkhitaryan before slotting the ball into the box, with Aubameyang waiting for a second time to tap home.
The Gabon international could have scored his hat-trick in the dying minutes, but missed twice in quick succession. The first saw the ball just run away from his foot and past the post and it was a similar story a minute later. Ramsey played him through, but this time, he did not catch the ball well as it went wide. However, another was not needed as Arsenal saw the game out to book their quarter-final spot.
Aubameyang had a hand in each goal – scoring two and assisting another – and the Rennes defence really couldn’t keep a lid on him. He should really have got a hat-trick, but could not quite find the finish in the final minutes.
He pulled on a Black Panther mask for his second celebration and it was a fitting tribute to the superhero performance that Arsenal desperately needed.