Arsenal continued their journey in the Europa League, as they travelled to Belarus to face opposition FC Bate in the group stage of this competition. Earlier, Wenger had a far cry about his team’s fixture, after playing a league match on Monday against West Bromwich and having to travel over 2,200 miles to face their opponents in the Europa League.
Arsene made changes to the lineup that started against West Brom, calling on David Ospina, Rob Holding, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jack Wilshere, Mohammed Elneny, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud, for the match against the opposition from Belarus.
Things got fond for the Gunners and Walcott had the chance to open the scoring in the 7th minute when Wilshere a superb pass into the strides of a running Walcott, freeing him on goal; with the Englishman striking the ball on target but his effort came off the bar and his rebound was headed over.
The Englishman wouldn’t sulk much on his missed effort and would be rewarded a goal two minutes later. Giroud and Wilshere combined well to play an eye-catching one-two, driving into the opposition penalty area and delivering a magnificent cross to fellow Englishman Walcott who headed the ball; guiding it all through till the ball crossed the line.
Theo Walcott would be handed his second goal of the match in the 22nd minute, following an error from the opposition keeper – gifting Walcott the ball in his own penalty area and the Englishman made no mistake in accepting what was given to him, making it two nil to the Gunners and grabbing his second of the night.
Things would even get better for Arsenal three minutes later when the Gunners were awarded a corner kick, taken by Walcott which was flicked by Mertesacker; falling for my man Rob Holding who sent the keeper the wrong way from close range to open his scoring for the Gunners and making it three goals for the Gunners.
The host would pull one back in the 28th minute of the match through their best player of the night Ivanic, When he headed in a delightful header that well beat Ospina, to send the fans into raptures, giving them something worth celebrating.
Theo Walcott came close to grabbing a first-half hat-trick, but a wonderful save from the goalkeeper meant he’d have to try in the second half. Rob Holding also hit the woodwork after lashing his effort, only to be denied a second goal.
An entertaining first half it was in Belarus for the Gunners who were rampant and seemed to unleash their opposition with some nemesis. The highlight of the first half for me was when Reiss Nelson became filthy with the ball and sent the opposition player doing the Harlem Shake.
A controversial moment in the game four minutes into the second half, when the shirt of Mustafi was held in the opposition penalty area following a corner kick. The referee pointed straight at the spot, though it was a very soft penalty to give, as the ball was high for Mustafi to reach.
A nice gesture was made, when Walcott who was on a hat-trick allowed Olivier Giroud who was one shy away from entering the 100 club. The French striker made no mistake in converting the spot kick, sending the keeper the wrong way and writing his name in Arsenal’s record books.
The opposition scored a second goal in the 67th minute after what seemed like a collapse in the Arsenal defence. Ivanic headed the ball towards goal, after being picked out by a cross, but Ospina could only parry the effort for a rebound and Gordejchuk would punish the Colombian for that.
All in all, it was a good game for the Gunners looking at the calibre of players that played and the ones that were rested for the weekend’s Premier League fixture. Jack Wilshere showed his old self and made no mistake bossing the midfield. I also thought Joe Wilock did well playing in midfield, winning the ball back for the team on a number of occasions and creating space for himself.