Razgrad (Bulgaria): Mesut Özil’s stunning late winner helped Arsenal recover from conceding two early goals against Ludogorets here to triumph 3-2 and reach the pre-quarterfinal stage for the 17th Champions League football season in succession.
Arsenal, who had thrashed the Bulgarian champions last month 6-0 in London, on Tuesday night struggled initially. They conceded two goals inside the first 15 minutes at the Vasil Levski National Stadium.
Jonathan Cafú converted a Wanderson free-kick in the 12th minute and three minutes later, the Brazilian got away down the right and set up Claudiu Keserü for a simple finish.
Arsenal reacted almost immediately, Özil centre-passing for Granit Xhaka to reduce the deficit to one in the 20th minute.
In a wide open first half, Olivier Giroud headed the equaliser shortly before the interval when he outjumped Milan Borjan in the Ludogorets goal to meet Aaron Ramsey’s right-wing cross.
The game settled down in the second half, but Ozil had the last say two minutes from time. The German playmaker beat the offside trap, rounded the keeper, kept his composure to floor the covering defenders then slotted home to seal a superb victory.
With Paris Saint-Germain winning against FC Basel in Switzerland, this victory sends Arsenal through the group stage for the 17th consecutive season.
After the game, Arsenal chief coach Arsene Wenger said: “We were caught cold and were 2-0 down and after that I felt we didn’t panic, kept our composure and came slowly back. It was good to be 2-2 at half-time.
“I give credit to the team spirit because it’s linked with belief. When you have positive results it shows a healthy mentality in the group together, and that comes out in these kind of games.”