Another goal from Gilberto, his second in as many UEFA Champions League games, proved enough for Arsenal FC to maintain their 100 per cent record in Group A at the Stade Abbé Deschamps stadium and leave AJ Auxerre facing the prospect of elimination.
Gilberto strikes again
Gilberto scored the fastest goal in Champions League history in Arsenal's 4-0 victory over PSV Eindhoven last week and he needed just three minutes at the start of the second half to add to his tally tonight. Sylvain Wiltord laid on the pass for the goal that proved enough against an Auxerre side who could muster little after the break, coming closest when Benjani Mwaruwari clattered a shot off the bar with seven minutes to play.
Wiltord comes close
The first chance of an evenly contested first-half fell to Wiltord on six minutes. The French striker was picked out in space on the right side of the Auxerre box by Nwankwo Kanu and he released a hard, low shot that beat keeper Fabien Cool only for Jean-Alain Boumsong to hack the ball off the line.
Kanu shoots over
Eight minutes later it was Kanu who looked to test Cool with a shot from the edge of the box, but his curling chipped strike just passed above the crossbar.
Auxerre impressed in midfield with a series of swift, crisp passing moves, but for the first half-hour they failed to trouble an Arsenal defence marshalled superbly by Sol Campbell and former Lille OSC defender Pascal Cygan on his first Champions League start for Arsenal.
On 32 minutes, however, the home side finally found a way through on goal. After a patient build-up the ball was played through to Yann Lachuer on the edge of the area and he picked out Benjani on the right. The striker cut inside and fired in a low shot, but David Seaman saved comfortably from a tight angle.
Gunners in front
The complexion of the game changed soon after the break as Gilberto struck for the Gunners. Patrick Vieira broke down the left and cut the ball back for Sylvain Wiltord, who had time to look up and slide a pass through to the on-rushing Brazilian to smash in from close range from the right side of the box.
With the lead, Arsenal began to dictate the pace. Even after losing Thierry Henry on 58 minutes to a suspected hamstring strain, the English Premiership champions looked the more threatening and on 64 minutes Cool dived at full stretch to catch Wiltord’s goal-bound header.
Auxerre pressed towards the end, but without any luck. Benjani remained Auxerre's most lively attacking threat and he combined well with Olivier Kapo with 14 minutes to go to create a shooting chance that Seaman did well to block.
Arsenal hold on
Seven minutes later the Zimbabwean got the better of Ashley Cole down the right and released a fierce shot from the edge of the box that beat Seaman but crashed back off the crossbar. It was the closest Auxerre would come and defeat at Highbury on Matchday Four could now see them eliminated.