Posted: Wednesday November 21, 2012 4:56 PM

Arsenal beats Montpellier 2-0, qualifies in CL

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LONDON (AP) -Jack Wilshere's first goal in two years and a sumptuous volley by Lukas Podolski earned Arsenal a 2-0 win over Montpellier in the Champions League on Wednesday, clinching the English team's passage to the knockout stage for the 13th straight year.

After a poor first half, Wilshere brought Emirates Stadium to life in the 49th minute by flicking home a deft finish from Olivier Giroud's nod-down.

Podolski gave winless Montpellier too much to do by rifling in a sensational 63rd-minute volley after exchanging a one-two with Giroud, a former player of the French team.

Assured of a top-two finish, Arsenal will go into its last Group B game - at Olympiakos - a point behind leader Schalke. Both sides will want to finish top to secure what would likely be an easier last-16 match.

Montpellier is guaranteed to finish bottom in its first season in Europe's top club competition.

Podolski's strike was good enough to grace any occasion, the Germany forward meeting Giroud's floated pass with a powerful strike that flew past goalkeeper Geoffrey Jourdren from the edge of the area.

But it will be Wilshere's goal - his first since a 4-2 victory over Aston Villa in the English Premier League in November 2010 - that will arguably delight Arsenal fans more.

The young England midfielder has recently returned from a long spell out with myriad injuries and is seen as vital to Arsenal's chances of winning a first piece of silverware since 2005.

He starred here with his drive and energy, and his well-taken goal capped an impressive display in which he played 90 minutes for the first time since his long-awaited comeback.

Arsenal's record in the Champions League - advancing from the group every year since 2000 - is something Wenger uses against critics who slate him for the team's lack of trophies.

The Frenchman's side has maintained that record, adding to the confidence that had been boosted by a 5-2 win over Tottenham in the north London derby in the Premier League on Saturday.

The Gunners were slow to get going against Montpellier, Laurent Koscielny powering a header against the bar in the 11th minute and Podolski dragging a low shot wide with their best chances.

The cutting edge came in the second half, allowing Arsenal a stroll to the final whistle.
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