Antonio Di Natale of Udinese iis closed down by Alex Song of Arsenal during the UEFA Champions League play-off first leg match between Arsenal and Udinese at the Emirates Stadium in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Udinese Vs. Arsenal, UEFA Champions League: Gunners Prevail 3-1 On Aggregate

Antonio Di Natale got Udinese off to a great start, but Arsenal were superb in the second half and will deservedly progress to the UEFA Champions League group stages.

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Udinese Vs. Arsenal, UEFA Champions League: Full Time, Gunners Win By 3-1 Aggregate Score

Antonio Di Natale and company did all they could on Wednesday night in Fruili, but Arsenal were just too good for Udinese in the second half. After 180 minutes, the Gunners are through to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League with a 3-1 aggregate win, sending Udinese down to the UEFA Europa League. Antonio Di Natale opened the scoring and gave the Zebrette hope, but the Gunners brought their best in the final 45 minute period, scoring twice to win the tie.

The first half began with an offensive onslaught from Arsenal, eventually resulting in a 55th minute goal. Gervinho provided a fantastic assist for Robin van Persie, dribbling along the endline before cutting the ball back to the Dutch international striker, who finished well.

Just three minutes later, it appeared that Udinese were going to be back into the series. Thanks to a handball in the box by Thomas Vermaelen, Udinese were granted a penalty in the 58th minute. The clinical finishing Di Natale stepped up and hit a decent penalty high and to Wojciech Szczęsny's right, but the keeper made an absolutely phenomenal save.

From then on, Arsenal were very much in control of the match. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, that save by Szczęsny absolutely sunk Udinese emotionally while giving Arsenal a massive lift. Theo Walcott would finish the game off with a breakaway goal in the 69th minute, but if it weren't for the brilliance of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, Arsenal could have very easily scored four or five times. They were brilliant throughout the second half, and will deservedly progress to the next round.


Udinese Vs. Arsenal, UEFA Champions League: Zebrette Lead 1-0 At Halftime, Tie Series 1-1 On Aggregate

Forty-five minutes are gone in the second leg of Udinese's UEFA Champions League playoff round tie against Arsenal, and the Zebrette have shown they're very much in it to win and able to compete with the Gunners. The home side have been on the front foot for almost the entire half and lead by a score of 1-0 on the night, which ties the series 1-1 on aggregate. If the score does not change, the teams will go to extra time, then penalty kicks if no one manages to score another goal in that 30 minute period.

Arsenal have been dangerous in spurts on the counter, forcing Samir Handanovic into a number of difficult saves, but the Gunners have been second best. Di Natale's goal came in the 39th minute, and it was lucky for Arsenal that it took Udinese so long to score. The Zebrette created chance after chance, barely missing on a couple of occasions and hitting the woodwork on a couple of others. 

Pablo Armero and Mauricio Isla have been spectacular down the flanks for Udinese and have made the difference in the match thus far. Di Natale has been brilliant as well, helping his team in all areas of the pitch before scoring his goal. However, it's not all negative for Arsenal, as the central midfield pairing of Emmanuel Frimpong and Alex Song look solid.

With extra time looming, it wouldn't be terribly surprising to see both teams content with the current result. Both managers' substitutions will probably be telling indications of their current mentality.


Udinese Vs. Arsenal, UEFA Champions League: Lineups

Between various sales and injuries, Arsenal are currently a thin looking club. They have some serious quality up top in Robin van Persie, who is now fit, but the rest of the lineup is a bit odd. Aaron Ramsey is playing more advanced than is ideal in the absence of Jack Wilshere, which has also caused Arsene Wenger to deploy two defensive minded players behind him, which is not exactly his normal style. Meanwhile, the extremely inexperienced Carl Jenkinson is forced to start at fullback. Udinese's lineup features some inexperience, but is much closer to a full side. Here are the lineups.

Arsenal lineup: Szczesny; Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Djourou, Sagna; Song, Frimpong, Ramsey; Walcott, Gervinho, Van Persie    

Udinese lineup: Handanovic; Isla, Larangeira, Agyemang-Badu, Di Natale, Neuton, Benatia, Asamoah, Ekstrand, Armero, Pinzi

The match kicks off at 2:45 pm ET, 7:45 pm BST and 8:45 pm local time. You can watch it on Fox Soccer Channel in the United States and on Setanta Sports in Canada. We'll be following along all game long in this StoryStream. For all of your Arsenal FC needs, check out The Short Fuse.

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