London: Midfielder Theo Walcott scored two first-half goals as English football club Arsenal eased to a 2-0 victory over FC Basel in a Champions League group stage contest at the Emirates Stadium here.
Picking up where he left off against Chelsea, the 27-year-old on Wednesday raced into the box to head home Alexis Sanchez’s cross in the eighth minute, and he added a second with a low drive after a slick one-two with the Chilean forward in the 26th minute.
Basel keeper Tomas Vaclik kept the score down with fine saves from Hector Bellerin, Alexis and Nacho Monreal, while Mesut Ozil could have had a couple himself.
The score could have been anything at half-time and, although the tempo dropped after the break, this was still an emphatic Arsenal victory.
With this win, Arsenal go joint-top of Group A with Paris Saint-Germain.
Arsene Wenger-coached Arsenal thoroughly dominated the match, thanks to their brilliant start to the contest and Walcott was in thick of the action.
He blocked bravely, linked play cleverly and, when his chances came, he had the determination and ruthlessness to take them.
Santi Cazorla’s ball into the left-hand channel set up the first goal. Alexis raced onto it and stood up a first-time cross that was met by Walcott into the net.
The second goal showcased different qualities. Walcott drew a defender, timed the release of his pass to perfection and raced into space to receive the return from Sanchez. The finish was unerring, in off the far post.
Arsenal got more chances in the first half. Nacho Monreal tested Tomas Vaclik in the Basel goal following good work from Alex Iwobi. And Sanchez would surely have scored if Adama Traore’s covering challenge hadn’t been perfect.
Walcott, Hector Bellerin and Cazorla combined to open up Basel again, only for Vaclik to deny Sanchez again.
In the second half, Arsenal moved forward as the sheer quality of the London club proved too much for Basel.
Sanchez dispossessed Marek Suchy and selflessly looked to feed Mesut Ozil, but Taulant Xhaka got back to intercept. Then Iwobi strode through to jab a shot just wide of the post.
Birkir Bjarnason, who famously helped Iceland knock England out of Euro 2016, tested Arsenal goalkeeper Ospina with a swerving effort from 20 yards and then wasted a more presentable chance.
Later, Sanchez met Walcott’s dinked cross, but he guided a shot wide from eight yards.
Later, Arsenal brought in Mohamed Elneny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs as Wenger freshened up his tiring team which managed a clean sheet.
First Published | 29 September 2016 5:37 PM