LONDON, August 27 – Arsenal moved into the Champions League group stages in controversial fashion as Eduardo's dive helped secure a 3-1 victory over Celtic in Wednesday's play-off second leg.
Arsene Wenger’s team went through 5-1 on aggregate after outclassing the Scots for the second time in the tie, but they needed a moment of deception from Eduardo to end Celtic’s hopes.
The Croatia striker won and converted a first half penalty when he exaggerated his fall as Celtic keeper Artur Boruc came out to make a save.
In truth, Arsenal were always in control and second half goals from Emmanuel Eboue and Andrey Arshavin rubbed salt into Celtic’s wounds as the Premier League team comfortably secured their place in Thursday’s group stage draw.
Wenger said: "Having seen it again on television it doesn’t look to be a penalty but we were likely to score the first goal and we always looked in control of the game.
"I believe it was not a penalty but I’m not sure if the keeper touched him. Eduardo might be a bit cautious because of the injury that he had. He might have jumped out of the way.
"I never asked in my life any player to dive to get a penalty but sometimes the player goes down because there is no way to get out of the way."
Hoops boss Tony Mowbray added: "I haven’t seen the reruns but all the boys felt there wasn’t any contact for the penalty.
"But we can’t say Arsenal didn’t deserve to go through."
Mowbray had no option but to go for broke as his side chased an unlikely comeback and he restored Scott McDonald and Marc-Antoine Fortune to the starting line-up after surprisingly dropping his most potent forwards for the first leg.
With the tie effectively wrapped up in Glasgow last week and Saturday’s visit to Manchester United in mind, Wenger left Arshavin and Robin van Persie on the bench, while captain Cesc Fabregas missed out with a hamstring injury.
Although Arsenal benefited from a deflection and an own goal to win the first leg, there was no doubting their superiority and they were quickly back in the ascendency.
Eboue flicked a Gael Clichy cross into Nicklas Bendtner’s path and the Dane’s shot was parried by Boruc. The rebound dropped towards Eduardo but he somehow managed to poke a lunging effort wide from no more than four yards.
The speed of Arsenal’s passing and movement bewildered Celtic at time and Mowbray’s defence stood statuesque as Eboue’s flick sent Denilson clear for a shot that crashed past the near post.
Arsenal were well on top but it took Eduardo’s exploitation of the game’s dark arts to open the scoring in the 28th minute.
He raced onto Bendtner’s pass and waited for Boruc to come sliding off his line before tumbling theatrically to the turf. To Boruc’s disbelief Spanish referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez ruled that the incident was worthy of a penalty.
Eduardo dusted himself down, ignored the chants of cheat from the Celtic fans behind Boruc’s goal and calmly sent the Polish keeper the wrong way from the spot.
Celtic had the ball in the net just before half-time when McDonald tapped in Fortune’s cross but the Australian’s effort was rightly ruled out for offside.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was in the stands to check out Arsenal and, apart from the dive, he must have been impressed by Eduardo’s display.
The Brazil-born Croatian almost scored again with a curling effort that Boruc tipped over before Bendtner headed the resulting corner wide.
Arsenal were always capable of carving open the Celtic back-four and Eduardo should have doubled the lead, only to drag his shot wide with just Boruc to beat early in the second half.
A second goal was inevitable and it arrived in the 53rd minute when Eboue’s powerful finish capped a fine move between Clichy, Bendtner and Diaby that exposed the gulf in class between the teams.
Arshavin, on as a substitute for Eduardo, gave Arsenal a final flourish in the 74th minute when he took Aaron Ramsey’s pass and shot past Boruc.
Massimo Donati got one back for Celtic with a superb volley in stoppage time but it was too little too late.