LONDON, September 16 – Captain Cesc Fabregas produced an outstanding individual performance as Arsenal opened their Champions League campaign with a a stylish 6-0 rout of Braga on Wednesday.The Spain midfielder, who had been blocked from moving to Barcelona in the summer, scored two goals himself.
Russia international Andrey Arshavin, Morocco forward Marouane Chamakh and substitute Carlos Vela, the Mexico international, grabbed a brace as Arsene Wenger’s men cruised to the top of Group H.
Wenger had been critical beforehand of the circumstances that had forced Abou Diaby, the France midfield player, out of the game.
Diaby had been hurt in the 4-1 Premier League victory over Bolton Wanderers at the weekend by a challenge Wenger believed should be punished retrospectively using video evidence, which would require a change of Premier League rules.
Diaby was replaced in the starting line-up by France international Samir Nasri, who returned for the first time since knee surgery last month.
Arsenal might have had a penalty in the opening minutes when Paulo Cesar’s clumsy challenge just inside the box sent Fabregas tumbling.
Referee Alain Hamer, from Luxembourg, ruled it had been accidental and also waved for play to continue when defender Moises tackled Fabregas in the box from the next attack.
But when Chamakh was brought down by goalkeeper Felipe, as he chased a Fabregas through ball, the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
Fabregas converted it to give Arsenal a ninth-minute lead.
Paulo Cesar forced Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia into a save via a deflected effort before the second goal arrived in the 30th minute.
Fabregas set it up with a shimmy to beat an opponent and then provided the perfect pass to find Arshavin on the left of the box and the Russian beat Felipe at his near post.
That was followed four minutes later by another from Chamakh, who chested down Arshavin’s chip and played a one-two with Jack Wilshere, whose return pass was a cheeky back-heel, before slotting past the hapless Felipe.
Fabregas headed home number four eight minutes into the second half after the Braga defence had dithered in clearing.
Arshavin crossed to the back post for the Spain international to nod home a header.
Felipe and Moises combined to deny Fabregas his hat-trick as Braga wilted.
The midfielder raced through but the goalkeeper got a touch to his lofted effort and the defender hacked it spectacularly away before it crossed the line.
Braga sent on forward Lima, who had scored a hat-trick against Sevilla in the qualifiers, but this game had already been decided and Wenger decided he could pull off Chamakh and Alex Song and give run outs to Carlos Vela and Denilson for the final 25 minutes.
Vela made it 5-0 after Fabregas had set Arshavin through and the Russian had seen his shot cannon back off a post.
The Mexican received a clever little pass from the Russian and lofted the ball over the advancing goalkeeper with a flick of a boot.
His second was courtesy of Fabregas, who had controlled a fine Wilshere pass, and the substitute rolled the ball past Felipe to embarrass the goalkeeper at his near post.