Europa League: Qarabag 0-3 Arsenal - Match Report

Unai Emery’s faith in youth players paid off when Arsenal battled against Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday night. It was the second group game of the season in the UEFA club competition in which all goal scorers were not the usual ones we had known.

We fielded a strong team, starting the game with three main defenders and two full backs in persons of Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sead Kolasinac who recently shook off an injury worry he sustained earlier in the summer. Aaron Ramsey and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were not available as they were left home back in London, and according to the boss at his post-match press conference, both had to stay back due to fitness issues.

It is worthy to note that all goalscorers in the Qarabag vs Arsenal game which held at the lively Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan, came from players who had before that game not scored for the club at the senior level – we had two summer signings on the scoresheet.

Any form of pressure that may have mounted on the Arsenal team prior to kick-off was taken off (or should I just say reduced) so early into the game. Nacho Monreal’s header from a Mohamed Elneny corner deflected off Sokratis Papastathopoulos’s feet and ‘BOOOM’, it was a goal in the fourth minute of the match, his first since joining Arsenal in the last transfer window.

Hard as they could, the hosts rose strong after being hit but it was still the Gunners who were top, controlling possession like they were traffic warders. Emile Smith Rowe went close to extending the lead through his slide to connect to a Kolasinac low cross but it wasn’t goal-bound. Awww!

We did not see much involvement from Bernd Leno in the early period, though the goalie who had become number 1 following Petr Cech’s injury against Watford on Saturday was clinical with his response to a shot to his left side by Mahir Madatov. He would end up keeping a clean sheet for the night.

It became tenser towards the close of the first period. However, we kept our calm and even as we did not make any difference to the scoreline, we still did not bow to pressure from the opposition. Emery took off Monreal with Arsenal needing to go back to the more conventional four-man defence and introduced Lucas Torreira into the midfield. Fortunately and unfortunately for Arsenal and Qarabag respectively, the latter’s ball which made the back of the net was adjudged offside. Skrrr!

It failed when he attempted to in the first half but Smith Rowe made amends and tuck one into the net to give Arsenal a non-hypertensive lead. It was a product of his combination with fellow Arsenal Academy scholar and Nigeria Starboy who is nephew to the legendary Austin Jay-Jay Okocha. Alex Iwobi is his name.

Another goal followed the introduction of Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette. The latter, ten minutes to the end, spearheaded a counter-attack, located Matteo Guendouzi at the edge of the box and the youngster made a twist before releasing the ball low into the corner at the goalkeeper’s right. It was his first for Arsenal just like the earlier goalscorers.

September ended with a win, October has begun in a similar way. The 3-0 result recorded against Qarabag takes Arsenal’s tally to eight straight wins in all competitions this season .Up next will be our trip to Craven Cottage to play with Fulham on Sunday afternoon. Until then, stay tuned and keep the faith!

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