By Randy Osae
Arsenal continued their traditional scrappy away victories in this particular stage of the Champions League by seeing out a 2-0 job in Glasgow.
Their fortunes this season also continued as a couple of decisive deflections netted both goals against Celtic.
Yet again, the Gunners have one foot in the group stages of the competition returning home to north London.
There had been doubts over Sagna, Fabregas and Denilson before kick-off but the trio managed to maintain their places in an unchanged side from the weekend.
The start of today’s affair did not vary from Saturday’s. On hostile away territory, Arsenal showed extra caution with every touch in the early stages but with Tony Mowbray’s approach to the game similar to Wenger’s, the Gunners handily dealt with a Celtic side more about carpet football than aerial passes.
Both teams were shy in front of goal but Arshavin did put the ball into the net at the expense of being ruled offside. Either side had now grown more audacious in the 18-yard-box and Brown forced a low save from Almunia after an awkward moment in Arsenal’s area.
Before that, Vermaelen had covered several yards back to deny the same Celtic man a goal-bound effort after a swift counter-attack from the Hoops. The Belgian and his defensive partner, Gallas, went up for the nod when Arsenal later earned a free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
Van Persie laid the ball off to Fabregas who ferociously fired it only for Gallas’ back to meet it on its way and guide it past Celtic’s bemused goalkeeper.
A goal you would not associate with Arsenal, but Gallas knows all about vital touches on set-pieces and Wenger’s men went into half-time ahead by the skin of their teeth.
The home side initiated a comeback mission after the restart and really put Arsenal on the back foot. As always, the Gunners did have their moments at the other end as Denilson and Van Persie both saw low efforts fizzle just wide off Boruc’s left post.
Clichy was often caught stranded on the left and after Vermaelen rescued on several occasions, Gallas provided a heroic clearance by guiding a very tempting cross from Fortune wide off to safety with McDonald free and lurking to pounce home.
And if that was a bitter pill to swallow for Celtic who could have nearly leveled, then what would happen moments after proved tough luck was just devilish on the night.
From a similar fashion in which Gallas tidied a very dangerous cross, Celtic found themselves further behind. Arsenal surged forward with Arshavin’s replacement, Diaby, the catalyst. The lanky midfielder teed up Clichy on the left and his countryman whipped in a teasing low cross which a hesitant Gary Caldwell turned into his own net.
Job done it was for Arsenal on another first-leg trip in a vital Champions League qualifier.