Aubameyang and Maitland-Niles secure English full-house in Europe
Arsenal progressed to the quarter finals of the Europa League after overturning a two goal deficit from the first leg to beat Rennes 3-0 and go through 4-3 on aggregate at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal came out the traps firing and although Rennes had the first shot after just two minutes through Traore's 30 yard effort, it was the home side who dominated the early exchanges. It took just five minutes for the Gunners to take the lead. Ramsey had possession at midfield, his sent a pass which was beautifully flicked on by Aubameyang, Maitland-Niles drove down the far side, he laid it off to Ramsey before the Welshman crossed for Aubameyang to tap in.
It was the best possible start for the Gunners and Ainsley Maitland-Niles caused the Rennes defenders problems on various occasions down the away side's left. Shortly afterwards, Aubameyang was played in by Maitland-Niles and if it were not for a sliding defender, it could well have been 2-0.
However, Arsenal, who enjoyed two-thirds of the ball in the opening quarter of an hour, were not forced to wait long before they went 2-0 up. Aubameyang went down the flank, played a one-two with Aaron Ramsey before the Gabonese managed to cross just as the ball was about to cross the byline for Maitland-Niles to head in at the far post. Kolasinac was very clever because he left the ball knowing he was in an offside position. There was still a suspicion of offside, but replays were inconclusive.
Once Arsenal went 2-0 up, the hosts decided to take their foot off the gas and were very comfortable. Arsenal had a few more chances to try and increase their lead and the best chance in the first period was an overhead kick by Aubameyang after Ramsey was given the ball by Maitland-Niles. Unfortunately for Emery's side, Aubameyang did not time it well and the ball went miles wide.
Rennes did very little in the first period and just had a good chance just before half-time after a good move between Sarr and Ben-Arfa from a corner and then a Bourigeaud which did not find a teammate. That said, it is safe to say they were rather unambitious in the first 45. The other thing of note was that Lacazette raked his studs down De Silva's side, but avoided a caution from Latvian referee Andris Treimanis.
After the break, the away side's strategy clearly changed and they forced a corner early on after Koscielny was forced to clear a Sarr chance and shortly afterwards, they had their best opportunity of the match. Mustafi made a terrible mistake at the back, Grenier passed the ball to Niang and his shot was going on target, but Cech got a fingertip to it to deflect it onto the post. That stirred Arsenal into action.
The home side then had the game under control without creating too much, but found the third goal in the 72nd minute. A one-two between Mkhitaryan and Aubemayang saw the Armenian then give the ball to Kolasinac. The Bosnian then put in a superb ball at the far post where Aubameyang was waiting to smash home. Once again, there was a question mark over offside, but it looked just ok. Aubameyang celebrated it by putting on a mask and Rennes then looked for a goal to force extra-time.
Aubameyang had two chances which he sent wide within seconds in the 83rd minute and then Rennes had a go just before the end. Hunou was caught offside on two occasions after good play by Ben Arfa and then with the last play of the game, Lea Siliki launched it into the melting pot, Mustafi failed to clear and Sarr's shot just went tamely into the ends of Petr Cech. That brought an end to the contest and Arsenal went through as deserving winners, but Rennes fantastic European adventure comes to an end after shocking Real Betis in the last round and they certainly were not disgraced.
The match capped off an excellent week for English football after all six European representatives progressed in Europe. As far as the Europa League, Chelsea are the only other English team in Friday's draw after comfortably defeating Dynamo Kiev. The only side to be eliminated from European competition was Burnley who were knocked out by Greek side Olympiakos back in August.