A clinical display of attacking football took Arsenal FC into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the second time in their history at the expense of ten-man Villarreal CF.
Arsenal's success in this competition has been founded on their solid defence, which is still to concede in five home matches in the competition this season, although it was their prowess at the other end which proved too much for the visitors. Having taken the initiative in the tie with last week's 1-1 draw in Spain, well-worked goals early in each half from Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Adebayor put the home team in complete command, Robin van Persie adding a third from the penalty spot after Sebastián Eguren had been dismissed.
Arsenal came into the match on the back of an 18-match Premier League unbeaten run and perhaps inevitably their early play carried an air of considerable confidence with Cesc Fàbregas, Walcott and Van Persie all prominent. Walcott sent one dangerous centre across the face of goal before Van Persie nodded Samir Nasri's cross over, but the visitors failed to heed the warning signs and duly fell behind in the tenth minute. Fàbregas applied the faintest of touches to Emmanuel Eboué's pass yet it was nevertheless enough to wrong foot the Villarreal defence, leaving Walcott to race clear and beat Diego López with a sublime chip.
Needing to score at the outset, the goal changed little for the away side, for whom Diego Godín had already tested Łukasz Fabiański with a volley from a well-worked free-kick. Indeed, falling behind seemed to settle Villarreal's early nerves as they began to find space down the flanks, Robert Pirès nearly marking his return to north London with a goal as his shot deflected behind. In the main, however, the home side's play was the more incisive. López dived to keep out Van Persie's fierce free-kick and Gonzalo Rodríguez eventually cleared Adebayor's follow-up header off the line, although Godín gave further notice of his presence at set-pieces, heading over a corner on the stroke of half-time.
Villarreal adopted a more direct approach as the second period got under way and the match became stretched, with gaps opening up as Van Persie had a shot from distance charged down. When a similar opening presented itself on the hour, the Dutch international opted to slide a pass through to Adebayor, and his strike partner applied the finish, controlling with one touch and then prodding wide of López with his next. Villarreal's flickering hopes were extinguished altogether in the 69th minute when Godín was adjudged to have fouled Walcott, Eguren collecting a second yellow card for his protests before Van Persie thumped in the spot-kick.
Having lost to the Gunners in the last four on their UEFA Champions League debut in 2005/06, Villarreal's second foray in the competition was coming to a similar end as they concentrated on damage limitation. Arsenal were content with their lot, however, and now have a meeting with holders Manchester United FC to look forward to – the fourth all-English semi-final in five years and the third year in a row the Premier League has supplied three teams in the last four.