Arsenal overturned a 3-1 deficit from the first-leg to overcome Stade Rennais to qualify for the Europa League quarter-finals.
A brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a first-half goal from Ainsley Maitland-Niles were enough for the Gunners to complete the turnaround against the French opposition to redeem themselves after a disastrous first-leg.
Story of the match
Needing to overturn a two-goal deficit from the first-leg, the Gunners made the perfect start. Aubameyang kickstarted the Arsenal attack flicking the ball down the line for Maitland-Niles and with some smart work on the right wing he played it on to Aaron Ramsey who cut the ball back for Aubameyang who poked the ball in from close range.
With Arsenal firing on all cylinders in attack they capitalised on their early dominance and added a second goal after 15 minutes as Aubameyang and Maitland-Niles combined again. Aubameyang stretched to keep the ball in play on the touchline and sent in an inviting cross and Maitland-Niles met it at the back post and powered his header in to level the tie.
Rennes began to gain some more control having crumbled early to Arsenal’s pressure, but they failed to do much with their possession and didn’t even register a shot on target in the first half.
Still looking lively when bursting forward Arsenal threatened to get another when Mesut Ozil cut back on to his dangerous left foot and found Aubameyang in the box, but he mistimed his speculative bicycle kick and sent the ball well wide.
Masked Aubameyang seals comeback
The second half started with some early pressure from Rennes with the visitors needing an away goal and they almost got it just minutes in to the half as M’Baye Niang watched on as his deflected strike bounced off the post.
The game was starting to become a niggly affair with both sides trying to buy fouls from the referee with the Rennes players becoming frustrated at the referee’s decisions as he handed out eight yellow cards in the match, four to each side.
Rennes again came close to gaining a precious away goal and had it not been for Sead Kolasinac’s last ditch tackle on Ismaila Sarr they may just have got it as he found some space in the box before the Bosnian defender prevented him from firing at goal.
With the away side pushing for a goal, Arsenal punished them as substitute Henrikh Mkhitaryan drove forward and slid the ball out wide for Kolasinac who whipped a pinpoint cross for Aubameyang to convert his second goal of the game.
The charismatic striker celebrated by donning a Black Panther mask as he earned the hosts a crucial third goal to put the Gunners ahead in the tie.
Aubameyang then had two chances to seal his hat-trick but his heavy touch in the box let him down and his finish rolled wide. He then squandered an even better chance as Ramsey beautifully flicked the ball in to the path of the Gabonese striker and with the goal gaping, he miscued his shot and the chance went begging.
Gunners await their fate
Arsenal withstood a late spell of pressure from Rennes with the offside flag coming to their aid on a couple of occasions as the away side looked to breakthrough as the Gunners completed their task with relative comfortability.
The Gunners are now into the draw for the quarter-finals of the Europa League which will be made on Friday. Arsenal will join Chelsea in the quarter-finals as both sides are bidding to win the competition which would guarantee a place in next seasons Champions League competition.