Arsenal eased to a 6-0 win over Bulgarian champions Ludogorets on Wednesday evening, as Mesut Ozil was the surprise hat-trick hero for the home side.
Two fine first half strikes from Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott had set Arsenal on their way, before Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil completed the scoring, the latter adding two late strikes to his first goal near the hour mark.
The Gunners were the stronger side throughout and despite some encouraging moments in attack, the away side simply had no answer to the flare and guile of their north London opponents.
Arsene Wenger made several changes to the side that edged past Swansea last weekend. David Ospina returned in goal, as he has for Arsenal’s previous Champions League matches this season, whilst Francis Coquelin, Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all brought in to freshen up the team.
Theo Walcott wasted a glorious opportunity early on when he found himself only six yards out with just the keeper to beat. Rather than shooting, the winger wrongfully chose to square the ball which was then scrambled away by the retreating Ludogorets defenders.
The Gunners would find the breakthrough moments later though thanks to Alexis Sanchez’s sublime finish. As the forward ran in on goal, he checked back inside his defender before lifting the ball delicately over the helpless Stoyanov from inside the area, much to the delight of the home crowd.
With Arsenal threatening to overrun their Bulgarian opposition, the away side nearly found themselves level with David Ospina having to make several good stops, including a smothering save to deny the pacey Johnathan Cafu.
At the other end, Walcott went close again as he was millimeters away from tapping in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s squared pass. Sadly for the England international, he was unable to catch up with the ball, with the goal at his mercy.
Cafu was still causing problems for the Gunners defence as, not for the first time, he found himself through on goal. As Ospina intercepted his charging run, the ball found it’s way to Wanderson, whose low shot clipped the outside of the post.
Despite looking suspect at the back, Wenger’s team remained dangerous in attack as Walcott continued his own personal battle with the Ludogorets defence as he saw his close range effort pushed wide by Stoyanov, having again found room in the penalty area.
The in-form winger would finally find the net in the 42nd minute though, with yet another delightful finish. Picking up the loose ball from outside the area, Walcott set himself before unleashing a curling shot into the top right hand corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance.
In truth it was harsh on Ludogorets, who headed into half time 2-0 down, despite creating plenty of openings of their own throughout the first 45 minutes.
Things would get worse for the Bulgarians immediately after the break as Kieran Gibbs low cross fell perfectly to Oxlade-Chamberlain who was waiting on the penalty spot. He barely broke his stride before guiding the ball into the bottom right hand corner past the hapless Stoyanov.
The third strike appeared to finally dampen Ludogorets’ spirits as Wenger’s side started to open up their opponents on a regular basis as Walcott and Koscielny went close with headers.
The fourth Arsenal goal arrived in the 57th minute after a swift counter attack set Mesut Ozil free. Francis Coquelin’s long range pass put the German in behind the Ludogorets defence and he marched forward before slotting the ball past Stoyanov, despite shooting with his weaker right foot.
The Bulgarian goalkeeper would fare much better the next time the Gunners fashioned an opening, this time managing to thwart Oxlade Chamberlain’s close strike with a fine low save.
Mercifully for Stoyanov and his teammates, several substitutions from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger eased the bombardment on their goal as the game drifted towards the final 10 minutes.
However the goals kept coming as Ozil grabbed his second of the night, seven minutes from time. He met substitute Lucas Perez’s long sprint and cross, with a scuffed finish that bounced into the ground and past the poor Ludogorets’ keeper.
The playmaker then gleefully completed his first Arsenal hat-trick minutes later, after the same duo combined to make it six. Good work from Perez saw the striker tee up Ozil, who volleyed in from close range to complete the scoring and end their opponents’ misery.
The win means the Gunners top group A, ahead of PSG on goal difference after the French giants beat Basel 3-0 at the Parc des Princes.