LONDON – Arsenal held on to beat Udinese 1-0 Tuesday on Theo Walcott's early goal in the Champions League playoff round.
Walcott scored four minutes into the first-leg game. Arsenal then had to withstand intense pressure from a visiting Udinese team playing its first competitive match of the season.
The lone goal at Emirates Stadium came when Aaron Ramsey charged down the right flank. He floated a low cross that Walcott turned past goalkeeper Samir Handanovic at the near post.
The victory came at a cost for Arsenal. Kieran Gibbs left at halftime with a hamstring injury. His replacement, Johan Djourou, was forced off with the same problem after less than 10 minutes on the field.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger watched from the stands, his punishment for a tirade against a referee last season after the Champions League loss to Barcelona.
Arsenal has been in the lucrative Champions League every season since 1998-99. Reaching the group stage is worth more than $30 million. Udinese is trying to qualify for the first time in six years.
Competing in the Champions League is vital to Wenger's hopes of attracting the players who can fill the void left by Cesc Fabregas' departure to Barcelona.
Also Tuesday, Lyon beat Rubin Kazan 3-1, and Czech champion Viktoria Plzen won 3-1 at Copenhagen. Benfica was held to a 2-2 draw in the Netherlands at FC Twente, and Austria's Sturm Graz played to a 1-1 tie in Bulgaria at BATE Borisov.