CSKA Moscow made it interesting, but goals from Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey secured Arsenal's place in the Europa League final four.
Arsenal were made to work for their place in the Europa League semi finals as they denied a valiant comeback by CSKA Moscow. Second half goals from Danny Welbeck and Aaron Ramsey confirmed the Gunners' progression in the tournament, but the scoreline flattered the visiting side.
Arsenal made one change from the first leg at the Emirates with Mohamed Elneny coming in for Granit Xhaka. The Switzerland international was a last minute absentee after failing to recover from illness. Meanwhile, the hosts welcomed back Kirill Nababkin who missed the first leg through suspension.
CSKA made two other changes, with Kristijan Bistrovic and Fedor Chalov coming in for Bribas Natcho and Pontus Wernbloom.
CSKA had most of the early chances, but failed to capitalize on a couple of stray Arsenal passes. Ahmed Musa was played through after an error at the back by the Gunners, but Petr Cech was on hand to dutifully collect.
Twenty minutes in and neither side had registered an attempt on goal. It was the home side who finally made the first meaningful strides, with Kristijan Bistrovic's low effort from outside the box going well wide of the target.
Arsenal sprung quickly on the counter attack on 27 minutes with Danny Welbeck sending Alexandre Lacazette away on goal. A good sliding block from a CSKA defender denied the Frenchman an attempt on target.
A huge blow for CSKA came on the half hour mark as Alan Dzagoev signalled to bench that he needed to come off. The 27-year-old appeared to pull up with a hamstring or groin problem and was replaced by Vitinho in an attacking change for the Russian side.
Vitinho's impact was instant as he exchanged passes with Konstantin Kuchaev near the Arsenal touchline. Kuchaev whipped in a cross which was met by Nababkin. His close range header was saved low to Cech's right hand side, but Fedor Chalov was quickest to react and slotted the rebound into the bottom corner.
CSKA burst into life and had another attempt on the Arsenal goal. Vitinho was again involved, this time hitting a volley at the edge of the box high over the crossbar. The chances kept coming and Arsenal were pinned back. The CSKA fans were filling the stadium with noise with their chants and claps, as a beating drum in the Moscow stands gave rhythm to their side's attack.
Arsenal ended the half very much on the back foot, and were saved from conceding another by the halftime whistle. It was clear that this was not the same free-flowing attacking Arsenal that we saw in the first leg.
Arsenal were the first to respond in the early knockings of the second half. Welbeck was again involved, playing a heavy pass through to Ramsey which Igor Akinfeev collected. After starting very cagey, this game was really starting to open up.
CSKA replied with another attack. Aleksandr Golovin took a shot from well outside to box that dipped low towards the bottom corner. Cech was able to save, but again a CSKA player was quickest to the rebound, this time Nababkin scoring from the loose ball.
This was starting to become a bit uncomfortable for the Gunners. Just one more goal for CSKA would see them go through on away goals, and Golovin seemed to be everywhere on the pitch at once and forced another save from Cech, this time from a free kick.
Arsenal needed to buck up their ideas and find a response. They almost got one through Mohamed Elneny, whose headed goal was ruled offside.
A chance for Laurent Koscielny went begging from a corner. The Gunners were looking toothless in attack and were giving the ball away cheaply. Jack Wilshere made way for Calum Chambers on the 69th minute and a switch to a more defensive formation followed.
The way this match was going, it was next goal wins. After barely threatening CSKA, Arsenal found a breakthrough. Welbeck, exchanging passes with Elneny, was slipped through on goal by the Egyptian and finished into the top corner of the CSKA net. The Gunners had a vital away goal.
The atmosphere softened, the home fans grew quieter and CSKA's intensity diminished. Welbeck's goal had put the Gunners back in control as they closed out the final minutes of the tie. Arsenal could have a had a second when Alex Iwobi was teed up by Mesut Ozil but fired wide of the bottom corner.
It was Aaron Ramsey who killed off the game once and for all. In injury time, the Welshman was played through by Elneny and had all the time in the world to finish over Igor Akinfeev. Arsenal are off the Europa League final four, their first European semi finals since 2009.