Spanish international midfielder Santi Cazorla has returned from injury in time for the Euro’s during the off-season.
The dynamic midfielder who had been a vital part of Arsene Wenger’s squad before his injury completed 62 minutes to inspire the U-21 side to a vital win against Aston Villa.They will now take on Aston Villa for a place in the top tier next Tuesday after Chris Willock scored twice at the Emirates and gave the Gunners just reward for bossing proceedings from start to finish.It had looked as though Steve Gatting’s side may live to regret a string of missed chances when Joe Rankin-Costello drilled in Rovers’ equaliser but 18-year-old starlet Willock, the best player on the park, had the final say late on.And there was further encouragement as Cazorla came through his first outing since he picked up a knee injury in the 1-1 Premier League draw at Norwich on November 29.It’s been a frustrating road to recovery for the Spanish maestro, with Achilles problems delaying his comeback, but he was on top form here and looked ready for a first-team return.It did seem a touch unfair on Blackburn’s kids in such an important game in their young careers that Arsenal had fielded a Spain international of 77 caps in Cazorla.
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Arsene Wenger watched on from the posh seats next to chief executive Ivan Gazidis, while Petr Cech was also in attendance as Tomas Rocisky also featured in race for match fitness.Cazorla pirouette in the centre of the park drew cheers from the small Emirates Stadium crowd early on and set the tone for a first-half of complete Arsenal dominance.Blackburn owed everything to their outstanding keeper Andrew Fisher, who made a string of excellent reaction saves to frustrate a Gunners team that controlled the ball and attacked in waves.Serge Gnabry’s hit found Fisher’s arms early on and Chris Willock’s header from Tafari Moore’s cross was straight at the 18-year-old stopper, who was just getting warmed up.Willock was lively, popping up on both sides of the penalty box and a low drive was knocked away by Fisher, with right-back Ryan Nyambe making a timely clearance before Gnabry could pounce.Rosicky dinked a sublime ball into Stephy Mavididi just after the half-time and the striker had plenty of time to set himself, only to see his eventual shot turned over the top by Fisher’s legs.Again, it seemed a matter of time and Willock duly delivered with 10 minutes left. Searching for space on the boundary of the box, the winger unleashed an inch-perfect low shot that found the bottom corner beyond Fisher’s despairing dive.
Arsenal now face Manchester City at the Etihad stadium with Santi Cazorla hoping to be a part of the squad and prove his fitness in time for the Euro’s later this year in France.