UEFA Champions League: How Arsenal plundered Lens to hit last 16

Arsenal cruised through to the Champions League last-16 as group winners after a breathtaking first half saw them beat Lens 6-0 at the Emirates.

The pressure had been turned back on the Gunners by PSV, whose late comeback win against Sevilla in the early kick-off meant Arsenal needed a point to qualify for the knockout rounds.

And they answered the call emphatically. In fact, it took just 13 minutes in the first half for Arsenal to dismantle their opponents, who had beaten them 2-1 in the reverse fixture in October.

Kai Havertz (13) began the glut, scoring in his second successive game, before Gabriel Jesus (21) doubled. Bukayo Saka (23) – continuing his fine form in the Champions League this season – bundled home the next, but the best came from a fine, solo effort from Gabriel Martinelli (27).

His effort was perhaps matched by Martin Odegaard’s (45+1) brilliant strike on the stroke of half-time, whipping home a thunderous volley. Jorginho (86) then rounded off a statement Arsenal performance from the penalty spot after European debutant Abduqodir Khusanov was penalised for handball.

The result sees the Gunners through as Group B winners with 12 points, with PSV joining them in the knockout rounds. They face each other in the final group game in a fortnight’s time. Lens, meanwhile, have been knocked out of the Champions League.

Reflecting on the performance after the game, Mikel Arteta said: “It was a genuine dream. We had a chance to qualify today and we’ve done it in a really convincing way against a really good side. The team from the beginning showed a lot of aggression and determination to go for the game.

“It’s great we’re able to win in this way and we showed at home not to concede any goals and score a lot which is a positive factor. The players need to believe we can do that against big opponents.”

A 13-minute blitz at the start of the first half saw Arsenal into an unassailable lead. Takehiro Tomiyasu had already sent a number of fine crosses into the area, and the Lens defence almost dealt with this one.

But the looping ball was instead nodded down by Jesus, with Havertz incoming to rifle home past Brice Samba. There was a brief VAR check for offside, but the goal stood.

For the second, Bukayo Saka was the creator. He cut in from the right, with the Lens defence needing two attempts to muscle him off the ball. But after the second, the ball rolled into Jesus’ path. He dummied two defenders before sweeping home.

Three minutes later and Saka was on the scoresheet himself, marking the fifth anniversary of his Arsenal debut. Havertz’s initial shot was well-saved by Samba, but the 22-year-old was in the right spot to see the ball hit him on the legs and into the back of the net.

Martinelli was not to be left out on the scoring frenzy, adding Arsenal’s fourth in the 27th minute. It was a sensational solo goal, initially picking up a raking pass from Tomiyasu on the left wing, before driving into the area and firing home.

Sky sports

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