Nicklas Bendtner's 87th-minute strike carried Arsenal FC into the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League with a narrow 1-0 victory over FC Dynamo Kyiv.
Just when the Group G leaders looked consigned to a second successive home stalemate, the substitute latched on to a long ball upfield by captain Cesc Fàbregas, held off a challenge from Pape Diakhate, and lashed the ball past Stanislav Bogush. It was an unusually direct approach from Arsène Wenger's men, who had struggled to create clear opportunities against a Dynamo side now left to fight for third place after this reverse. Things got even worse for Yuri Semin's team in the dying seconds as they lost Olexandr Aliyev to a straight red card for pushing referee Alain Hamer out of his path as he tried to take a free-kick.
If the night ended with Bendtner the hero, it began with young Mexican attacker Carlos Vela making his first UEFA Champions League start for Arsenal and he was the architect of the game's opening chance. Collecting a Fàbregas pass out on the right, he slipped the ball between two blue shirts to pick out Aaron Ramsey's run. The teenager failed to take full advantage, however, his effort on the stretch deflecting off Diakhate and over the crossbar.
Dynamo fielded two recognised forwards in Ismaël Bangoura and Artem Milevskiy but the latter was invariably found further back, forming a five-man midfield as the visitors sat deep and invited Arsenal to try and open them up. Yet Arsenal, with a narrow midfield three of Ramsey, Fàbregas and Denilson – playing ahead of the holding Alexandre Song – struggled to pick holes in the packed Dynamo defence despite a 67 per cent share of first-half possession.
Van Persie threat
Robin van Persie offered the principal goal threat, driving in a couple of wicked inswinging free-kicks – one fisted away by Dynamo goalkeeper Bogush, the other kneed over the crossbar by Mikaël Silvestre. A break down the left by Gaël Clichy almost brought a breakthrough just before the half-hour when the left-back's low cross evaded a line of blue shirts and reached Ramsey but the Welshman shot wildly over. With the interval approaching, Dynamo then nearly grabbed the lead against the run of play after a mistake by William Gallas. Recalled to the side, Arsenal's deposed captain lost the ball to Bangoura out by the touchline. The Dynamo No10 took the ball into the box but crashed it against the near post, to Gallas's undoubted relief.
Dynamo push forward
Gallas did have the ball in the Dynamo net on the stroke of half-time but was ruled offside. The Frenchman was involved again moments after the restart, albeit this time to inadvertently block a close-range Van Persie drive after the Dutchman, capitalising on a Fàbregas free-kick into the area, had seen his first attempt charged down by Milevskiy. With FC Porto leading at Fenerbahçe SK, Dynamo now needed a goal and their ambition increased accordingly, Bangoura firing wide before Aliyev sent in a shot that Manuel Almunia gathered at the second attempt.
The atmosphere grew increasingly nervy as Dynamo's forwards played their neat triangles around the Arsenal box and with 14 minutes remaining, Almunia came to the hosts' rescue by charging down Milevskiy's shot after the striker found himself with just the Spaniard to beat. Moments earlier Wenger had sent on 16-year-old Jack Wilshere for his first UEFA Champions League appearance, but it was his other substitute Bendtner who would make the difference.