Cesc Fabregas scored twice and Robin van Persie once in a blistering 16-minute second-half spell which all but ended NK Dinamo Zagreb's hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage at the expense of last season's runners-up Arsenal FC.
The home supporters - almost 37,000 of them to Arsenal’s 200 travelling fans - did their utmost to make this an occasion to remember at the Maksimir stadium, creating a wonderful atmosphere well in advance of kick-off. Their team would have been further buoyed team by seeing an Arsenal team-sheet bereft of a number of leading names including captain Thierry Henry and goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. Still, the first half was more perspiration than inspiration with neither side fashioning a real opening in the face of some determined defending.
For the home side, Luka Modrić was living up to his billing as one of Croatia's most promising talents, although the 20-year-old was upstaged by teenager Fabregas. Playing his first competitive game since impressing at the FIFA World Cup, the Spanish international fired Arsenal ahead in the 63rd minute with a crisp finish from Robin van Persie's clever assist. Provider turned scorer within a minute, as the Dutchman raced on to Aleksandr Hleb's raking pass before slotting the ball across Ivan Turina who could only palm it into the back of his net.
Excellent covering from Swiss central defender Johan Djourou denied home striker Eduardo da Silva a scoring opportunity in the 69th minute, and ten minutes later the lead was extended as Fabregas showed tremendous footwork and composure to skip past two home defenders on the edge of the box and send the ball beyond Turina for the third time - surely rendering the 23 August return at Arsenal's new north London home academic.