With Group A rivals Paris St Germain beating Basel in Switzerland, a win for
the Gunners would be enough to see them through with two games to spare – and
Ozil popped up with three minutes remaining to complete a 3-2 win, which had
looked improbable following a shaky start to proceedings at the Vasil Levski
National Stadium in Sofia.
Ludogorets were two goals ahead inside the opening 15 minutes as Jonathan
Cafu and Claudiu Keseru struck – but a first Champions League goal for Granit
Xhaka and a header from Olivier Giroud before the break had Arsenal level and
Ozil's late heroics mean they have qualified from the opening group stage for a
17th consecutive season.
Manager Arsene Wenger said on the eve of the game that it was Arsenal's
"prime target" to top Group A in the hope of avoiding a tricky tie at the round
of 16 stage – where the Gunners have been knocked out in the past six
mercurial v black Wenger showed that intent by selecting arguably
the strongest side at his disposal, despite the fact Arsenal face a crunch north
London derby at home to Tottenham on Sunday.
Ozil, Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez were retained, although the latter
was shifted onto the left flank to accommodate Giroud – making his first start
of the season after scoring twice in Saturday's win at Sunderland.
Ludogorets, thrashed 6-0 at the Emirates Stadium a fortnight ago, changed
their goalkeeper and centre-forward as Bulgarian striker Keseru came in having
hit a hat-trick in their last league outing.
purecontrol cleats Ozil was the man who helped himself to three
goals when these sides met last time out and he had a decent chance to open the
scoring here, but his shot from Francis Coquelin's threaded ball was tame.
vapor v black It was the Bulgarian champions who took the lead as
Cafu finished from close range after Arsenal had failed to clear a Wanderson
free-kick into the middle of their penalty area.
The second came shortly afterwards as Kieran Gibbs was too easily beaten by
Cafu down the right flank and Keseru converted his cross.
Arsenal responded well and, despite starting slowly, were back in the contest
as Xhaka swept home Ozil's pass from the touchline.
obra orange While Ludogorets still posed a threat on the
counter-attack, Arsenal were getting back to near their recent best and were
level three minutes before the interval as Giroud headed home Aaron Ramsey's
cross at the near post.
The second-half started evenly but without many chances for either side until
Wanderson was played in behind just after the hour-mark, with the Brazilian not
making the most of his opportunity and shooting weakly at David Ospina.
purechao black Mohamed Elneny came on late into the contest and
played in Ozil, who showed great composure to round the goalkeeper and two
defenders before slotting home and sealing Arsenal's spot in the last 16.