Jack Wilshere scored as Arsenal booked their place in the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Montpellier.
Over a year of injury-ravaged frustration was etched on Wilshere’s face as he celebrated poking Arsenal ahead in the 49th minute before Lukas Podolski sealed the win with a stunning volley on 63 minutes.
Schalke’s win over Olympiakos on Wednesday means Arsenal are guaranteed a place in the second round ahead of their final Group B fixture in Athens on December 5.
Arsene Wenger’s side dominated from the outset and nearly opened the scoring in the 10th minute, only for Laurent Koscielny’s header to rattle against the crossbar.
The only other half-chances of note in the first half at Emirates Stadium fell to Podolski, who scuffed an effort wide.
Arsenal responded to Wenger’s half-time team talk after the break as they came out with far more verve and creativity, with Santi Cazorla and Wilshere looking dangerous.
In the 49th minute, the hosts broke the deadlock as Wilshere scored for the first time since his strike in the 4-2 victory over Aston Villa on November 27, 2010.
Thomas Vermaelen floated in a dangerous right-footed cross that former Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud headed down perfectly for Wilshere’s run.
The midfielder made the finish look simple as he flicked the ball over Montpellier goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren.
Jourdren would have been forgiven for diving out of the way of the strike that sealed the result in the 63rd minute.
Podolski worked a clever one-two with Giroud and struck a scorching volley from 12 yards that left Jourdren with no chance.
The impressive Giroud almost made it three against the club for whom he scored 25 goals last season late on, but the Frenchman’s low right-footed strike was saved by Jourdren.
Arsenal got the job done easily but tougher challenges will await as they progress to the knockout rounds for the 13th consecutive season.
Schalke defeated Olympiakos 1-0 at Veltins Arena, securing their passage to the last 16.
A long-range Christian Fuchs strike was enough for the hosts, who now sit in first place in the group with one match to go.