van Persie 49, 85
Borussia Dortmund 1
Thanks to a brace from Robin van Persie club Arsenal are the first English team to qualify for the second phase of the Champions League, the 12th consecutive season they’ve achieved the feat.
When these two teams last met back in September they were both enduring a relatively poor start to the season. Arsenal had been dismantled by Manchester United and won just once in the league while Borussia Dortmund where in the middle of a six-game run which included just one win.
Fast forward 10 weeks and Arsenal have lost once in their last 12 (winning 10) while Dortmund have dropped two points in their last seven Bundesliga games and were fresh from a 1-0 win away at Bayern Munich.
The equation on the night was simple too: Arsenal were through if they won and Dortmund were out if they lost. All in all it was set up for a fascinating game.
Inevitably, then, the visitors came and parked the Volkswagen making the first-half an intriguing but relatively incident-free affair. Dortmund stayed compact playing a high line with the centre-backs pressing up into midfield to hit Arsenal on the break.
The team was well drilled and every player knew their role, leaving Arsenal, who were unchanged for the first time this season, struggling to break them down with van Persie isolated up front and Theo Walcott providing the only, rare threat through his pace.
However, Dortmund lost key players to injury in the first-half when both Mario Goetze and Sven Bender were injured within minutes of each other and the team weren’t able to maintain their frenetic pace in the second-half.
It didn’t take Arsenal long to take advantage after the break with van Persie scoring four minutes after the restart. The Dutchman will get the plaudits but it was Alex Song’s goal. The Cameroonian ran into the left hand corner and a wall of three Borussia players but with a neat piece of skill he beat them all before crossing sweetly for van Persie to nod home.
Gervinho squandered a fantastic chance to seal qualification with half an hour to play but he fluffed his chance by taking one touch too many.
With four minutes left van Persie did grabbed his 17th goal in 18 games this season hammering home a corner flicked on by Thomas Vermaelen.
At the death Song and Johan Djourou lost the ball cheaply on the right side allowing Kagawa to slot home. It was the last meaningful kick of the game and so was just a consolation goal but had it come earlier, the result might have been very different.
Arsenal go through top of their group with a game to spare, but again their defensive frailties were exposed and unless they tighten up it could come back to haunt them later in the competition.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Szczesny; Koscielny (Djourou 82), Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Andr