Arsenal youngsters pass Euro test

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Arsenal have progressed to the group stages of the Champions League after a pulsating victory over Udinese in Italy.

The Gunners took a slim lead into the second leg of the third qualifying round after Theo Walcott's early strike at the Emirates eight nights previous, but that would be wiped out in the first 45 minutes thanks to a fantastic header from Antonio Di Natale.

A resurgent Arsenal made the second period their own though, and goals from Robin Van Persie and Walcott were interupted by a fine penalty save by Wojciech Szczesny on a famous night for Arsene Wenger's side.

The first period began at a frantic pace at the Stadio Friuli, with the early chances falling to Di Natale, who had the ball in the net from an offside position and struck the post early, the later chance from a low cross with the goal gaping.

Arsenal were still looking lively going forward though, and a Gervinho cut-back gave Walcott the chance to grab an away goal. However, Samir Handanovic made a fine stop to deny the Englishman, and quickly reacted to stop Van Persie's follow-up.

Giampiero Pinzi provided the ball to break the deadlock on 39 minutes, with a floated cross that Di Natale met with a wonderful looping header. This time the post was kind, bouncing in off the woodwork and past Szczesny.

The Zebrete finished the period stronger, and Wenger needed the whistle to regroup his side at the interval.

Tomas Rosicky's arrival at the break showed the positivity of the Gunners as they chased an own goal, and Van Persie duly delivered on 54 minutes after great work again from Gervinho, who found the Dutchman six yards out with a fine pass.

With the aggregate score standing at 2-1, there was more drama to come as the Serie 'A' side were awarded a penalty following a controversial handball from Thomas Vermaelen from a corner just five minutes later.

However, the Polish stopper continued his impressive start to the campaign with a fine diving save to his right, pushin Di Natale's powerful strike over the bar and turning the tie further in favour of the north Londoners.

Walcott would seal the match on 69 minutes after a one-two with full back Bacary Sagna, showing a clean pair of heels to the defence and slotting past Handanovic at the near post.

Always in the action, Di Natale would spurn another good chance ten minutes later after dragging his shot wide, and Arman Traore had a chance late on to extend the lead of the visitors.

It didn't matter for the Gunners though, who passed their latest test with flying colours after a difficult month for Wenger and his young guns.

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Robin Van Persie
UEFA Champions League
Wojciech Szczesny
Theo Walcott

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