Aubemeyang scores twice as Arsenal comeback against Rennes

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrated with Marvel Pictures Wakanda mask
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrated with Marvel Pictures Wakanda mask
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrated with Marvel Pictures Wakanda mask
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrated with Marvel Pictures Wakanda mask

Arsenal manager Unai Emery says he is “excited” by the prospect of winning his first trophy with the club following their 4-3 aggregate victory over Rennes to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League.

Emery has already won the competition three times with former club Sevilla.

Arsenal were knocked out in the semi-finals of the Europa League last season under Arsene Wenger.

“We can feel the possibility of winning this title,” said Emery.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang inspired a Gunners comeback as they overturned a two-goal deficit from the first leg to reach the quarter-finals.

The striker put the Gunners ahead within four minutes, firing in Aaron Ramsey’s cut-back, before setting up Ainsley Maitland-Niles at Emirates Stadium.

He then poked in Sead Kolasinac’s low cross after the break to make it 3-0 as Arsenal joined Chelsea in the last eight following their 8-0 aggregate thrashing of Dynamo Kiev.

Both English clubs are favourites to win the competition after five-time champions Sevilla’s shock exit in the last 16 and Italian giants Inter Milan failed to progress.

Emery sees success in the Europa League as an extra ticket into the Champions League as Arsenal – who are currently fourth in the Premier League – battle to remain above Manchester United and Chelsea in the table.

“The last eight teams are very important teams and it is going to be very difficult,” said Emery. “The Europa League is giving us a big opportunity also to make one way to the Champions League.

READ: Giroud scores hat-trick as Chelsea thrash Dynamo Kiev

“And also, it’s one title. I said to the players, I am excited about this competition. It’s not just because you can get to the Champions League.”

Ainsley Maitland-Niles scored Arsenal's second goal under 15 minutes
Ainsley Maitland-Niles scored Arsenal’s second goal under 15 minutes

The draw for the quarter-finals takes place on Friday at 12:00 GMT.

Aubameyang shines for Gunners

Despite trailing 3-1 from the first leg and needing to score at least twice, Arsenal remained favourites to progress to the quarter-finals and they got off to a brilliant start.

Alexandre Lacazette, who was eligible to play after a ban was reduced, had a great chance after just three minutes when he latched onto Ramsey’s ball over the top, only to be denied by Rennes keeper Tomas Koubek.

A minute later, Aubameyang did put Arsenal in front when Maitland-Niles cut inside the defender and laid it off to Ramsey, who put it on a plate for the Gabonese striker.

Aubameyang was energetic, efficient and dangerous throughout and it was his willingness to chase the ball down which led to the second goal.

There was some fortune as he appeared to be offside when Ramsey’s threaded pass was kept in on the byeline but with no video assistant referee, Maitland-Niles finished off the move with a thumping header in the centre.

Aubameyang continued to play with confidence – trying an audacious overhead kick in the first half, before poking in Arsenal’s third goal after 72 minutes.

He celebrated by putting on a Black Panther mask which had been stored behind the goal – the latest in his trademark superhero celebrations, which earned him a booking.

Only Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero (18) has scored more goals than Aubameyang (17) in the Premier League and the Arsenal forward has now picked up four goals and two assists in seven Europa League games this season.

Sloppiness made for nervy ending

Arsenal are aiming to win the competition for the first time under manager Unai Emery, who won it on three occasions with Sevilla.

There were glimpses of their best football but Arsenal were put under pressure in the second half by the French side, who are eighth in Ligue 1.

Shkodran Mustafi was sloppy when he gave away possession on the right which led to M’Baye Niang’s strike hitting the outside of the post.

Kolasinac had to make a crucial last-ditch tackle on Ismaila Sarr in the box and Rennes came close again moments later when Ramy Bensebaini hit the post, only to be flagged marginally offside.

When Aubameyang tapped in his second goal, it seemed Arsenal had done enough and he should have bagged a hat-trick – he was played in by Alex Iwobi but his chip dribbled inches wide of the keeper’s left-hand post.

Aubameyang scuffed an even better chance from six yards out with eight minutes to go, leading to a nervy ending – an equaliser from Rennes would have taken the game to extra time.

Hatem Ben Arfa’s runs caused a few problems but the offside flag once again came to Arsenal’s aid and the full-time whistle was greeted with relief from Emery’s players.

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