While Ari will certainly remember his first UEFA Champions League start, so will the FC Spartak Moskva supporters after his double helped the Russian team end a ten-year wait for a home win in the group stage of Europe's premier club competition.
The striker set the hosts on their way to a 3-0 Group F victory against MŠK Žilina with a towering header on 34 minutes, before doubling the lead just after the hour from close range. Although he stole the show, the 24-year-old was eager to share the praise for Spartak's long-awaited home triumph.
This was a team performance, so I shouldn't get all the credit just for scoring two goals," said Ari, the former Kalmar FF and AZ Alkmaar player who joined Spartak from AZ in January. "I scored twice but couldn't have done so without my team-mates."
Spartak's wingers Aiden McGeady and Dmitri Kombarov caused the Žilina defence all manner of problems with their direct running – which, the former revealed, is a key tenet of how coach Valeri Karpin instructs his teams to play.
"Both of us are wide players, and our jobs are to get past players and get crosses in and I think that's what we did tonight," explained McGeady, who moved to Spartak from Celtic FC for a reported €11.6m last month. "Obviously Dmitri set up the second goal and I put in a couple of crosses and was a bit unlucky that the strikers didn't get on the end of them."
Žilina were a shadow of the side that gave a good account of themselves in a 4-1 home defeat by Chelsea FC two weeks ago. Aside from a bright ten-minute spell early in the second half, the visitors rarely tested Spartak goalkeeper Andriy Dykan, who was a spectator for much of the game. "We didn't really play well as a team," rued Žilina centre-back Jozef Piaček. "We defended well at times but unfortunately we weren't together and weren't able to get our attack going."
The result enabled Spartak to shake off the millstone of not having won at the Luzhniki Stadion in the competition proper since defeating Arsenal FC 4-1 in the second group stage ten years ago. Having overcome a London club that day, Spartak can follow suit when group leaders Chelsea arrive in Moscow on 19 October.
"We have had a really good start to our Champions League campaign, but that's exactly what we were looking to do in our opening two games," added Ari. "We all know we've got a couple of very hard matches against Chelsea coming up, but obviously these victories will give us a lot of confidence going into the games."
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