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Arsenal 3 Rennes 0: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the double as Gunners seal Europa League comeback

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 6 days ago Simon Collings
© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Arsenal beat Rennes 3-0 to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League and in doing so became only the second side in the competition’s history to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck either side of Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ first goal at the Emirates as the Gunners progressed 4-3 on aggregate.

Only a week ago that seemed unlikely when Arsenal lost 3-1 in Rennes, but they wiped out that deficit in the first 15 minutes of this match.

In truth they should have put the game to bed in the first half, but it was not until Aubameyang’s second goal 18 minutes from time that they could breathe easy.

It completed an impressive comeback from Arsenal and indeed they are only the second side in Europa League history to achieve such a feat, with Fulham doing the same against Juventus back in 2010.

Despite the first-leg deficit facing Arsenal, there was no shortage of optimism at the Emirates before kick-off given the Gunners had beaten Manchester United 2-0 at the weekend.

Off the back of that win, Unai Emery made just two changes for the visit of Rennes as Petr Cech replaced Bernd Leno in goal and Shkodran Mustafi came in at centre-back for the suspended Sokratis.

The Greece international had been sent off in the first leg as Arsenal slumped to a 3-1 defeat in France. However, there was no sense of a hangover from that loss here as the Gunners started this match at a blistering pace.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wearing a football uniform: Goal-getter: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice and notched an assist against Rennes (Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Goal-getter: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice and notched an assist against Rennes (Getty Images)

They were all over Rennes from the off and after five minutes they had their first goal of the night through Aubameyang.

Maitland-Niles did well down the right and found Aaron Ramsey, who slid the ball across goal for Aubameyang to tap home.

Spurred on by that, Arsenal refused to take their foot off the gas and 10 minutes later they duly had their second goal, which cancelled out Rennes’ first-leg lead.

This time it was Maitland-Niles getting on the scoresheet as the wing-back headed home Aubameyang’s cross, although it looked as though the Gabon international was offside from Ramsey’s pass in the build-up.

After racing into a two-goal lead, you expected Arsenal to go on and kill the tie but Rennes held firm and got through to half-time unscathed.

That allowed them to regroup and they almost took the lead right at the start of the second half, but striker M’Baye Niang saw his effort crash against the post.

a group of men playing a game of football: The Gabon international netted either side of an Ainsley Maitland-Niles header (Arsenal FC via Getty Images) © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited The Gabon international netted either side of an Ainsley Maitland-Niles header (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Indeed, Rennes looked a much better side after the interval and Arsenal had to hold firm to keep them at bay.

But, just when it looked as though the French side may stage a comeback of their own, Arsenal got the killer third goal in the 72nd minute.

This time they found joy down the left flank and Sead Kolasinac expertly picked out Aubameyang with his cross to allow the striker to grab his second of the night.

He could have added to his tally twice more before full-time, but on both occasions he fluffed his lines.

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