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Arsenal Edge First Leg

Gunners take narrow lead to Italy

Posted Aug 18, 2011 by Chris White

A Theo Walcott strike gave Arsenal the win

In their first game in the post-Fabregas era, Arsenal made a winning start to their Champions League qualifying campaign at the Emirates.

A fourth-minute strike from Theo Walcott was the difference on the night as Arsenal held on to win 1-0 against a Udinese side that people might take a bit more notice of in the second leg, with the home side indebted to a number of fine saves from Wojciech Szczesny.

With Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboue gone, Arsenal were also missing the injured Jack Wilshere, and banned duo of Robin van Persie and the seemingly next out of the door Samir Nasri, while manager Arsene Wenger was also missing from the touchline after his suspension from last season.

Arsenal were able to field new signing Gervinho, who was eligible for European action despite his three-match domestic ban for his red card on debut against Newcastle last week, but the Ivorian made little impact on the match.

The Gunners were very fortunate to come away from this first leg with the win, as Udinese certainly deserved a draw, if not the win. They hit the woodwork twice through skipper Antonio di Natale – the top scorer in Serie A for the past two seasons

The home side were certainly more relieved than jubilant to hear the final whistle, and travel to Italy next week with a slender advantage against a team that look like they could score at will. Arsenal will need an away goal that much is certain if they are to qualify.

Elsewhere in Europe, BATE Borisov were held to a 1-1 draw by Sturm Graz. The shock of the night came in Denmark as FC Copenhagen suffered a 3-1 defeat at home to Plzen of the Czech Republic.

Benfica are in the driving seat having held Dutch side FC Twente to a 2-2 draw, while Lyon beat Rubin Kazan 3-1 in France.

German giants Bayern Munich are almost certainly into the main draw after a 2-0 win against FC Zurich at the Allianz Arena, as are Dinamo Zagreb, who beat Malmo 4-1. Maccabi Haifa take a 2-1 lead to Genk in the second leg, while Villarreal suffered a shock 1-0 defeat away to Danish side Odense in the first leg. Wisla Krakow beat Apoel Nicosia 1-0 in the other tie.

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