Unai Emery starts another Euro quest on winning note

Arsenal 4 Vorskla 2

Unai Emery starts another Euro quest on winning note

By Simon Collings


Having won the Europa League three times during his managerial career, Unai Emery has had far more memorable nights in the competition than this.

However, the new Arsenal head coach will at least be happy that his quest to win the trophy for a fourth time has got off to a winning start.

Vorskla Poltava, who have not been in the Europa League group stages since 2011 (when incidentally they failed to win a single game), came to frustrate the hosts and they did so effectively for 32 minutes.

Stacked with two banks of five players, they kept Arsenal at bay initially and their goalkeeper Bohdan Shust did not even have to make a save in the early stages.

However, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal just after the half hour mark got Emery’s side the breakthrough they needed. From there they began to hit their stride and Danny Welbeck’s header in the 48th minute was followed by a second for Aubameyang and one for substitute Mesut Ozil.

Volodymyr Chesnakov’s strike 14 minutes and Vyacheslav Sharpar’s with the final kick of the game were the only black marks that took the gloss off.

Before Arsenal took the lead, they had to settle for over 75 per cent possession but little end product. And when the crucial goal came, it unsurprisingly came courtesy of a momentary lapse in concentration from a previously well-drilled Vorskla team.

Trying to create a chance of their own, the Ukrainian side gave the ball away outside Arsenal’s penalty box and they were made to pay. Henrikh Mkhitaryan broke at pace and slide in Alex Iwobi, who had been the Gunners’ sole bright spark down the left.

In space out there once again, he fired the ball across the box for Aubameyang to finish. It was only the striker’s sixth touch of the entire match – an indication of how little service he had until then.

Boosted by their goal, and aware Vorskla would have to come out and attack, Arsenal began to dominate.

Torreira fizzed a free-kick into the side netting, while Aubameyang hit the post and Mkhitaryan had a strong effort tipped wide. The half-time whistle was a welcome reprieve for the visitors.

The second-half, however, followed the pattern of the end of the first and three minutes after the interval Arsenal got their second of the night.

Again it came down the left as Iwobi found himself in acres of space. Not panicking he set the ball to Mkhitaryan, who’s delicate cross was headed home by an unmarked Welbeck.

A previously subdued Emirates perked into life, sensing that there were plenty more goals to be had. Aubameyang clearly shared that thought too and he duly got his second after 56 minutes.

Mkhitaryan again got the assist as his slipped pass found the Gabon striker 35 yards from goal. A quick turn and he was away from left-back Artur and curling his effort into the bottom corner.

There was no chance of hat-trick for the striker, though, as he was immediately taken off for Ozil. The German did not appear in the competition till February last season, but he was in on the act here as he rounded off the victory by tapping home Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cross with 16 minutes to go.

Chesnakov’s late strike in the 76th minute and Sharpar’s deep in injury gave the hosts something to cheer about on what was otherwise a tough night for them.

ARSENAL: Leno; Lichtsteiner, Holding, Papastathopoulos, Monreal; Torreira (’57 Guendouzi); Elneny; Welbeck, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi (’70 Smith Rowe); Aubameyang (’57 Ozil).

VORSKLA POLTAVA: Shust; Perduta, Dallku, Chesnakov, Artur; Kobakhidze (’78 Serhiichuk), Kravchenko (’70 Sklyar), Sharpar, Rebenok; Kulach (’78 Careca); Kolomoets.

Referee: Bart Vertenten (BEL)

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