Arsenal became the latest English side to complete a second-leg comeback against French opposition when striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace helped earn Thursday’s critical 3-0 triumph against Rennes in the Europa League’s round of 16.
The Gunners trailed 3-1 from last week’s harrowing opener at Roazhon Park. But buoyed by the weekend win against Manchester United, who recently overturned a 2-0 deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, they managed to see off middling Ligue 1 challengers.
A first of two tap-ins from Aubameyang and right-back Ainsley Maitland-Niles header from his cross handed the Gunners the advantage on away goals by 15 minutes at Emirates Stadium. The hosts flagged after the break, but another close-range effort from the aforementioned Gabon hit man eased some of the tension past the hour mark and made it 4-3 on aggregate.
Here are the Arsenal player ratings:
Petr Cech 6: Saved by his post when M’Baye Niang took aim early in second half. Then saved twice, correctly, by offside flag in final throes against his former club.
Shkodran Mustafi 6: No sloppy errors or moments of madness to report from the error-prone ex-Germany defender.
Laurent Koscielny 6: Very little defending for the ex-France veteran to undertake until the frantic end. Just about held firm.
Nacho Monreal 6: No litany of errors like in Rennes, but was tested by speedsters on opposition’s right side in second half.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles 7: England really do have some talent on the right side of defence. Calm ball led to Aubameyang opener, then headed in like a seasoned striker. Also led way with five tackles.
Aaron Ramsey 6: Smart low cross for Aubameyang and set fast, early tempo. But this momentum was impinged by a knock as Rennes went on ascendancy after interval.
Granit Xhaka 6: Early confidence flowed from goal in victory against Manchester United. Like most team-mates though, influence diminished after break. Could be tired after fourth start in a row this month.
Sead Kolasinac 7: Struggled to get involved in first half. In reverse to colleagues, came alive after break. Produced one critical covering tackle on Ismaila Sarr and then expertly crossed for Aubameyang’s welcome second.
Mesut Ozil 5: On third-successive start, produced leading, at time, two key passes before removal. It is, however, one goal and one assist in last 12 matches – both in rout of Bournemouth. Wretched value for money.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 8: Home comforts for Gabon forward. Tapped in twice, wound clock back to cross for Maitland-Niles. Now been involved in 15 goals in last 13 Emirates run-outs. Then, inexplicably, scuffed two quick-fire chances late on to record hat-trick.
Alexandre Lacazette 5: Only start because of an appeal, yet seemed on a mission to pick up fresh suspension. Lucky not to see second caution. Hooked.
2 - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored six braces in all competitions this season (2+ goals); more than any other Premier League player in the 2018-19 campaign. Orthodontist. pic.twitter.com/aIJfUIKCAv— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 14, 2019
Alex Iwobi 5: Dragged glorious chance wide from in front of goal soon after coming on. Aubameyang’s second narrowed risk of this miss hurting Gunners. Lucky not to be punished for kicking out at Hamari Traore.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan 6: More direct than incidental Ozil. Will hope to soon be back in XI.
Lucas Torreira N/A: Helped to keep Rennes out at death.
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