Rapid Wien (0) 1 Arsenal (0) 2
UEFA Europa League, Group B, Matchday 1 of 6
Allianz Stadion, Gerhard-Hanappi-Platz 1, 1140 Wien, Austria
Thursday, 22nd October 2020. Kick-off time: 5.55pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Cédric Soares, David Luiz, Gabriel Magalhães; Sead Kolašinac, Nicolas Pépé; Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Bukayo Saka; Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney, Alex Rúnarsson, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Shkodran Mustafi, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, Matt Macey, Granit Xhaka.
Scorers: David Luiz (70 mins), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (74 mins)
Yellow Cards: Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Partey, Eddie Nketiah, Bernd Leno
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 67%
Referee: Pavel Královec (Czech Republic)
Assistant Referees: Ivo Navordnik (Czech Republic), Tomas Mokrusch (Czech Republic)
Fourth Official: Karel Hrubes (Czech Republic)
Referee Observer: Volodymyr Petrov (Ukraine)
A minimal amount of attendees (circa 3,000) due to coronavirus restructions
If it’s the third Thursday in October, then it must be the start of our Europa League campaign for this season. Actually, this is our fourth consecutive season in this competition; if you recall, we reached the semi-final in 2017-18, the final in 2018-19 and the last 32 in 2019-20. Obviously, we are hoping for a good run in the Europa League, and if we can go on to win the competition, then that will give everyone at the club a huge lift. Tonight we are without the services of Rob Holding, Dani Ceballos and Willian due to injury, but nevertheless we have the personnel available to ensure victory in Vienna this evening. Let’s go!
Within minutes, we started to assume control of the match, and although the usual sparring was taking place between the two teams, we looked fairly comfortable both on and off the ball. After eighteen minutes, David Luiz had our first serious chance of the game, when his header was parried by the Vienna goalkeeper, Richard Strebinger, who was left grasping for fresh air, following a well-taken free-kick by Nicolas Pépé. Bernd Leno was called into action shortly afterwards, when a deflected shot nearly caught him off-guard, but in the end he saved quite comfortably from Marcel Ritzmaier, who worryingly found space inside our penalty area. Alexandre Lacazette was booked for bringing down Ercan Kara, and similarly our new boy Thomas Partey also got a yellow card for catching Taxiarchis Fountas unintentionally in the face with his arm. Despite a lot of possession, we didn’t have anything to show for it, and seven minutes from half-time, Eddie Nketiah became our third booking of the night, when he kicked the ball away petulantly after a poor referreeing decision. Just before the break, the home side had two corners consecutively, which came to nothing, and a couple of minutes later, a pedestrian first half thankfully came to an end.
For the first few minutes of the second half, the home side took the game to us; a terrible mix-up between Bernd Leno and David Luiz saw the ball being lost when being pressed by Ercan Kara, who passed the ball to Taxiarchis Fountas, standing unmarked in the penalty area. He merely kept his head and slotted it into the Arsenal net for the first goal of the match just six minutes after the restart. Not a great start to the second half here in Vienna. A few minutes later, the goalscorer almost scored again, when Bernd Leno passed the ball out of his area; thankfully our goalie easily saved his shot.
Just before the hour, Eddie Nketiah was substituted for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and a couple of minutes later, the ineffective Cédric Soares was replaced by Hector Bellerin. To be fair, the double substitution appeared to rejuvenate the team, and suddenly our passing became crisper and the strikers more alert. We started to create more chances, and thankfully we scored the equaliser on the seventieth minute, when a Nicolas Pépé ball from a free-kick sailed into the Rapid Vienna penalty area for David Luiz to jump above the defenders to head the ball into the net. Our second came four minutes later, when Hector Bellerin collected a pass from Mohamed Elneny in the Rapid Vienna penalty area, and slotted it across the six-yard box for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score with a simple tap-in. With our tails up, we started to wake up to the idea that we could actually win this match at last. Joe Willock aand Kieran Tierney replaced Alexandre Lacazette and Granit Xhaka with six minutes of the match remaining, with an idea to shore things up and not do anything too rash at this late stage of the game. Nicolas Pépé was substituted for Reiss Nelson deep into injury time (just after Bernd Leno receiving a yellow card for time wasting); however, game management was the name of the game now, and we practised that, kept our heads, and left the field as winners tonight.
As a match, it was fairly forgettable, except for the debut of Thomas Partey. He is truly a different class, a modern type of player that we have been lacking for a while. He was constantly firefighting in midfield, always first to the tackle, distriburing the ball intelligently. From tonight’s performance alone, Thomas Partey will undoubtedly be the difference between success and failure at Arsenal. He is certainly going to be one to watch this season, without a shadow of a doubt.
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: Leicester City at the Emirates on Sunday, 19th October at 7.15pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.