Mesut Ozil magic caps Arsenal comeback and bewilders Wenger
Wonderful late goal earns Gunners victory and a place in the last 16 after nightmare start against Ludogrets
Ludogorets 2 Arsenal 3.
A late, great goal from Mesut Ozil sealed a stirring Arsenal comeback in Sofia and saw the Gunners through to the last 16 of the Champions League for the 17th consecutive season.
The victory, together with Paris Saint-Germain's 2-1 victory over Basel, means that Arsenal and the French champions have reached the knockout phase of the competition with two games to spare.
Now all that remains is to decide which of the two clubs finishes top of Group A with Arsenal hosting PSG at the Emirates on 23 November before finishing their group-stage campaign in Basel a fortnight later.
That the Gunners are in such a comfortable position is down to their determination in overcoming Ludogorets in Bulgaria. Two weeks ago they thrashed the Bulgarian champions 6-0 at the Emirates but it was the Gunners who looked to be heading for humiliation as they conceded two early goals in the re-match.
Jonathan Cafu put Ludogorets in front on 12 minutes when he slipped between a leaden Arsenal defence to poke home Wanderson's free-kick, and three minutes later Claudiu Keseru doubled the hosts' advantage when he fired past David Ospina from Cafu's cute pass.
"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," reflected Arsene Wenger.
First Granit Xhaka pulled one back for the visitors with a well-placed strike from 15 yards and four minutes before half-time Olivier Giroud deftly headed Aaron Ramsey's cross into the Ludogorets net.
"It was good to be 2-2 at half-time," said Wenger. "In the second half we dropped a little bit physically and we continued to dominate the game, but we were exposed to their counter-attacks."
Only two fine saves from Ospina prevented Wanderson restoring his side's lead but Arsenal held firm and then three minutes from time stole the three points with Ozil's magnificent goal.
Springing the offside trap, the German ran onto a long pass from Mohamed Elneny, chipped the ball over the onrushing Ludogorets goalkeeper, cut inside two covering defenders and after what seemed an age, eventually stroked the ball into an empty net.
Asked to analyse Ozil's goal, Wenger said: "You know, I would say the great players make the right decisions in the game situations they face. They always make the optimal solution. To me it didn’t look for a while like the optimal solution, but when the ball was in the net I thought it was. You wanted him to take maybe his chance earlier but at the end he had enough skill to prove that he was right."
The result extends Arsenal's unbeaten run in all competitions to 15 games and sends the Gunners into Sunday's north London derby against Tottenham with their tails up. "I give credit to the team spirit because it’s linked with belief," explained Wenger. "When you have positive results it shows a healthy mentality in the group together, and that comes out in these kind of games."