Eintracht Frankfurt (0) 0 Arsenal (1) 3
UEFA Europa League, Group F, Matchday 1 of 6
Commerzbank-Arena, Mörfelder Landstraße 362, 60528, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany
Thursday, 19th September 2019. Kick-off time: 5.55pm
(4-2-3-1) Emiliano Martínez; Calum Chambers, Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, Sead Kolašinac; Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka; Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, Bukayo Saka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Dani Ceballos, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Nicolas Pépé, Reiss Nelson, Mattéo Guendouzi, Gabriel Martinelli
Scorers: Joe Willock (38mins), Bukayo Saka (85mins), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (87mins)
Yellow Cards: Calum Chambers, Sead Kolašinac, Joe Willock
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 50%
Referee: Davide Massa (Italy)
Tonight was a night for youth, and the faith that Unai Emery finally had in his youngsters to step up to the plate and deliver a result in one of the most difficult and dangerous of European footballing arenas. With a performance such as this, it is very hard to pick out an outstanding player, let alone a goal that was any better than the others. Whatever happened between the players when they discussed the debacle of Sunday’s match at Vicarage Road over the course of this week, one can merely speculate, but whatever it was, the resulting post-mortem certainly worked, and although it was a bit rocky at times, the result was everything.
Eintracht Frankfurt came out of the blocks menacingly at us, and at times it did look as if we were going to concede a goal early on, but for the amazing skills of goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez, we could easily have been in deficit. His positioning was inch perfect, his saves were sublime, and it has to be said that Bernd Leno must be looking over his shoulder wondering when Martínez will take his place after a performance such as this. The match was incredibly open with both sides chancing their arm throughout, and it seemed that it was a matter of time before somebody, anybody, would score. Thankfully, with just seven minutes remaining on the clock before the break, it was us, and to be fair, with the chances taken by our forwards in the match so far, it just had to be. The wonderful Bukayo Saka ran towards the Frankfurt defence, passed the ball to young Joe Willock, who took a shot that deflected off of a player, spun towards the goal and ricocheted down from underneath the crossbar and into the net. Who cares? They all count, and we went into the half-time break in the ascendancy.
The second half started fairly much the same as the first, with the home side under pressure from their own crowd fighting to bring the scores level, but in every case, the defence held somehow. The pace quickened, tackles were reckless, players were getting tired, and ultimately booked for their troubles. As usual, Unai Emery brought his substitutes on in the later stages of the game; Nicolas Pépé for Emile Smith-Rowe (60mins), Dani Ceballos for Joe Willock (72mins) and Ainsley Maitland-Niles for Sead Kolašinac (80mins) and fresh legs made a difference. Shortly after Dominik Kohr was sent off for a second yellow card, we struck again, and what a goal it truly was. After a Frankfurt attack, Emiliano Martínez threw the ball out to Granit Xhaka, who ran 30 yards before passing it to Bukayo Saka, who did no more but steady himself, look to see where the goal was and deftly stroke the ball with a skill that belies his years into the corner of the net. Two minutes later, a pass from Bukayo Saka put Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through on goal, and this time he made no mistake in putting us three goals to the good. A few minutes later the final whistle blew, we ran out 3-0 winners on the night, and incredibly, top of Group F as well.
All in all, a superb performance from everyone, particularly the academy boys who more than justified the manager’s faith in them here in Frankfurt tonight. But our defensive issues remain; time and time again the defence looked fragile, and it not to be forgotten that Eintracht Frankfurt had 24 shots on our goal, just seven short of Watford last Sunday, and none of us wish to be reminded of what happened in that place then. But a win is a win, and the confidence we must surely get from this victory in Germany tonight will toughen us up for the long Premiership campaign that lies ahead. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Aston Villa at The Emirates on Sunday, 22nd September at 4.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
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