Arsenal Await Europa Knockout Stage Draw Following a Sakastic Night

Arsenal would still have remained top of the Europa League group E had they lost to Qarabag in the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night but the victory was necessary for continuity of their unbeaten run which has now stretched to 22 in all competitions this term.

Unai Emery made nine changes to the side that recorded a lone goal win over Huddersfield by infusing a number of youth players for the last group stage fixture. Mesut Ozil returned after a back injury, Captain Laurent Koscielny made a remarkable comeback following a career-threatening injury while Alexandre Lacazette, the hero of the night, spearheaded the attack.

One of the youngsters who made the team was Saka. He got his first team home debut and his performance has since become a topic of discussion among football lovers.

The only goal of the night was scored in the first half by Lacazette having connected with a pass from Ozil before slotting clinically past the right of the visiting goalkeeper. That was all we needed to conclude European competition for the year and remain undefeated.

Koscielny's involvement was met with a warm reception from the home fans who repeatedly sang his praise then gave him a loud ovation when he was taken off in the 72nd minute of the encounter to be replaced by Nacho Monreal. The good treatment was expected considering the Frenchman's long absence as a result of an Achilles problem he got in the semi-final (against Atletico Madrid) of this same competition last year. He had been out for 225 days and only recently played a couple of games for the Arsenal U23 side.

It would have been sweeter had he got a goal upon his return. He came close with a header from Ozil's corner but he will have to try again some other time.

The man with the home debut, Saka, had chances to open his goalscoring record but luck was not on his side on the occasion. His curling shot in the first period was saved by Vagner. He got other opportunities in the second half, one of which he played wide and aided Nketiah with a cross which he headed home. Unluckily enough, it was flagged offside. That still had no negative effect on the outcome of the game.

At the end it was a 1-0 win for the Gunners who will on Monday find out their opponent in the first knockout stage of the UEFA Europa League. Two things are certain: Arsenal will not play a team that finished first in their group and will have their first leg of the next round away from home.

This Sunday, it will be a return to Premier League action as Arsenal will take on Southampton away at St. Mary's and after that it will be another Tottenham Hotspur visit to the Emirates Stadium in the Carabao Cup quarter-final game in midweek.

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