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Arsenal FC put themselves clear at the top of Group B after a convincing 2-0 home victory over S.S. Lazio in their UEFA Champions League encounter at Highbury.
Two goals from Swedish midfielder Fredrik Ljungberg gave the home side the valuable three points that now increases their chances of reaching the Second Group-Match Stage of the competition. Lazio created few clear-cut chances during the match and were punished by some excellent Arsenal finishing.
Arsenal looked to be the brighter of the two sides from the first whistle, laying siege to the Lazio goal during the opening exchanges. Tony Adams was unlucky not to put the Gunners ahead, when his shot, from a Dennis Bergkamp corner, was blocked well by Sinisa Mihajlovic after just ten minutes. Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu was the next to miss out, as his low drive flew just wide of Lazio 'keeper Luca Marchegiani's goal. The Italian side struggled to find their feet at the start, and didn't have a real effort on goal until the 33rd minute, when Mihajlovic flashed a curling free-kick just wide of David Seaman's left-hand post.
It was Arsenal defender Martin Keown who almost opened the scoring, but his shot through a crowded Lazio penalty area was well held by Marchegiani. After scoring twice against FC Shahktar Donetsk on Matchday Two, few would have been surprised to see the England international defender on the scoresheet, but this time it wasn't to be.
In a first half littered with chances for the home side, Thierry Henry was unfortunate not to open his account for the night, but the Lazio 'keeper was off his line quickly to save at the forward's feet. Keown was back in the thick of things when Lazio forward Simone Inzaghi deflected an Henry cross towrds his own goal. As the big Arsenal centre-back rushed to pounce on the loose ball, Marchegiani foiled him again, clearing the ball behind for a corner.
Despite a short spell of Lazio pressure that saw the visitors push into the Gunners half, Arsenal looked in control and thoroughly deserved their 1-0 lead when it came in the 43rd minute.
A raking cross-field ball by Kanu found Dennis Bergkamp lurking at the far post. He headed back across goal, and the on-rushing Fredrik Ljungberg drove the ball into the roof of the Lazio net from 6 metres out.
The second-half saw much of the same, as Arsenal continued to pressure the Lazio defence. Thierry Henry was a constant danger for the Italian defence to deal with, and he almost double his side's lead in the 54th minute. The ever-busy Marchegiani was called into action again, sweeping up before Henry could reach Kanu's flick-on. Lazio's star midfield man Juan Sebastián Veron was quiet throughout the match, as Patrick Vieira man-marked the Argentinian playmaker out of the game.
Arsenal took a 2-0 lead in the 56th minute after Bergkamp burst through the Lazio defence and fed an inch perfect pass for Ljungberg to tuck past the helpless Marchegiani. The goal was no more than the Gunners deserved, and it clearly rocked Lazio, who hadn't conceded a goal before tonight's game.
Lazio coach Sven Göran Eriksson tried to rally his troops in the latter stages, introducing Marcelo Salas and Fabrizio Ravanelli into his forward line, but the damage had already been done. As the full-time whistle approached, Arsenal looked increasingly comfortable and almost made it 3-0, when substitute Sylvain Wiltord was unlucky to see his cross-shot gathered by Marchegiani. The victory sens Arsenal clear at the top of Group B and Gunners coach Arsčne Wenger will be delighted with his side's dominating performance.