News24

Arsenal reach CL group stages

2011-08-24 22:53

Rome - English Premier League club Arsenal on Wednesday maintained their proud history in the Champions League with a 2-1 play-off victory at Udinese.

The victory sees the Gunners advance to the lucrative group phase of the Champions League - something they have achieved every season since the 1998/99 season.

But even if the 3-1 aggregate victory suggests an easy passage into the next round, it was far from that, as Antonio di Natale gave the home side the lead in the first half to level the tie.

Robin van Persie equalised for Arsenal ten minutes after the restart, but di Natale could have put Udinese ahead again in the 59th minute, but saw his penalty saved by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Theo Walcott put matters beyond doubt in the 69th minute with the 2-1 winner for the visitors.

In Austria, Sturm Graz went into their game as favourites after having played to a 1-1 draw at BATE Borisov in their first leg, but goals by Marko Simic and Aleksandr Volodko gave the Bulgarian team a 3-1 aggregate victory.

Former European champions Benfica outplayed their Dutch opponents Twente Enschede in Portugal and won 3-1 to go through 5-3 on aggregate.

Benfica captain Luisao scored once, while Belgian Axel Witsel scored the others for the home side. Bryan Ruiz scored for the visitors.

Viktoria Plzen advanced to the group phase for the first time in their history - at their first attempt.

A 2-1 victory at home, on top of a 3-1 victory away from home against FC Copenhagen gave the Czech side a comfortable 5-2 aggregate win.

In the early game French club Olympique Lyon advanced after holding Rubin Kazan to a 1-1 draw in Russia.

Bibras Natcho scored for the home side, while Bakary Kone found the equaliser for Lyon, who advanced 4-2 on aggregate.

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