Podolski thrills home crowd with shades of Van Persie
Arsenal 2 Montpellier 0:Jack Wilshere has revelled in the buzz of his Arsenal return after his 17-month injury lay-off. Now he has once again felt the unique charge of a goal. The midfielder’s timing was in last night, and not only because he last found the net almost two years ago.
Arsenal had laboured in the first half in a tie that they sorely needed to win to ease their Champions League nerves but they did so with ease and thanks to Schalke’s win against Olympiakos, are through to the knockout round with a game to spare.
Wilshere had fastened on to Olivier Giroud’s header to lift coolly over the advancing Geoffrey Jourdren from close range and could not conceal his delight. Tongue out, he beat the club crest on his shirt before sliding on his knees.
The evening’s real beauty, though, was to come.
If the opening goal represented the turning point, then Lukas Podolski’s was the one that thrilled the home crowd.
They will never tire of watching the reruns of his sumptuous left-foot volley, which carried shades of those that Robin Van Persie used to dispatch in this arena. The crowd even serenaded him with Van Persie’s old song, about scoring when he wants. The names were changed.
Arsenal emerged as comfortable victors, which is not something that has happened for a good few weeks. The trip to Olympiakos in December, once again, will be free from stress.
Arsenal’s best first-half moment had come on 11 minutes when Koscielny timed his run to meet Thomas Vermaelen’s whipped left-wing cross. His free header crashed against the crossbar.
Arsenal needed to raise themselves in the second half but they located the tonic almost immediately. Podolski linked with Vermaelen on the left and the defender’s cross invited Giroud to show his aerial power against his former club. He obliged, and Wilshere read the knock-down. The midfielder was not going to miss with his left foot from the edge of the six-yard box, despite the pressure from Jourdren. He last scored in the 4-2 win at Aston Villa on November 27th, 2010.
Arsenal were up and running, and the sense of liberation was writ large over Podolski’s volley. From another Giroud assist, this one a chipped return flick, the striker showcased his technique.
It was a moment to illuminate any game, let alone one that largely failed to excite.
Cazorla and Giroud had chances to extend the lead but the damage was done. Montpellier went with a whimper. Arsenal march on.