Arsenal clung to an important 1-0 win over FC Zurich at the Emirates Stadium in their final Europa League Group A match on Thursday to advance directly to the round of 16 as winners.
Mikel Arteta's side could have been forced into the Europa League playoff round if they had finished second in their group behind PSV Eindhoven, who beat Bodo/Glimt to pick up all three points on Thursday as well, but the prevailed in the hard-fought match to top the group.
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A loose ball fell invitingly to Kieran Tierney at the top of the penalty area and he took his chance well for the game's only goal, smashing a first-time shot past Zurich keeper Yanick Brecher at his far post to give Mikel Arteta's side the lead inside of 20 minutes.
Arsenal dominated the opening 45 minutes of the match -- outshooting Zurich 12-4 and spending most of the time in attack -- but only had Tierney's opener to show for it as they took a 1-0 lead into half-time.
The hosts spurned numerous opportunities to double their advantage and were almost made to pay.
Gabriel Jesus unwittingly kept out a goal-bound shot from team mate Fabio Vieira when it struck him a few yards out with Brecher beaten. Zurich had the ball in the back of the net from a rare foray forward in the second half, but Adrian Guerrero was flagged for offside, and they wasted a number of late chances to snatch a draw.
The visitors continued to frustrate Arsenal throughout the second half to set up a nervy finish for the Gunners, with Zurich coming inches from an equaliser in the 80th minute when Bohdan Viunnyk's rocket from distance just missed the top-left corner.
Despite winning five out of their six group games, PSV made it hard work for Arsenal to win the group as the Dutch side finished second on 13 points and will await the results of Monday's draw to see who they face in the playoff.
Arsenal will learn their round-of-16 opponent in the draw on Feb. 24, following the conclusion of the playoff round matches between the eight second-place finishers in the Europa League and their third-place counterparts from the Champions League.