Arsenal (1) 4 Molde FK (1) 1
UEFA Europa League, Group B, Matchday 3 of 6
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Thursday, 5th November 2020. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(3-4-3) Bernd Leno; Granit Xhaka, David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Dani Ceballos, Joe Willock, Sead Kolašinac; Nicolas Pépé, Eddie Nketiah, Willian Borges da Silva.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Magalhães, Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette, Alex Rúnarsson, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Rob Holding, Cédric Soares, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Matt Macey.
Scorers: Kristoffer Haugen (o.g.) (45 mins), Sheriff Sinyan (61 mins), Nicolas Pépé (68 mins), Joe Willock (88 mins)
Yellow Cards: David Luiz, Bukayo Saka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 58%
Referee: Halil Umut Meler (TUR)
Assistant Referees: Ibrahim Uyarcan (Turkey), Martin Margaritov (Bulgaria)
Fourth Official: Bahattin Simsek (Turkey)
Referee Observer: David Fernandez Borbalan (Spain)
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
Good to see the return of David Luiz this evening, and along with him, several changes in the first team for this match against Molde FK from Norway, who, like us, have a 100% record in Group B of this competition. We will face Molde FK for the very first time tonight; actually, we have a very good record against Norwegian opponents, having won three of our four previous matches against teams from that country. Incidentally, our last match against a Norwegian team was back in December 2004, when we defeated Rosenborg 5-1 in the Champions League, so the omens are good for us tonight. Let’s go!
It took just over four minutes for us to make our mark on this match when Eddie Nketiah ran on to a ball from Nicolas Pépé, and his subsequent effort went just inches wide of the post. We looked fairly comfortable on the ball, and slowly we started to stamp our dominance on the game. As we have seen before with opponents at the Emirates, they fall back and try to pack the penalty area with players looking for the break. In fact the most exciting thing about the first quarter of an hour was when the linesman’s radio microphone breaking down, with the embarrasssment of the UEFA official adjusting it for him on two occasions! After twenty-two minutes, totally against the run of play, Martin Ellingson, who was unmarked outside our penalty area, hit a low, curling thirty-yard shot past Bernd Leno into the corner of the net to give the visitors the lead. The goal woke us up a bit, and both Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Dani Ceballos came very close to scoring with two well-placed shots on Molde’s goal. The match settled down and we were winning the loose balls in midfield now, applying pressure on the visitors, which they soaked up time and time again. Two minutes before the break, Eddie Nketiah got the ball into the Molde net, but both Joe Willock and himself were allegedly in an offisde postion, so the goal was cancelled out, which as it happened, was a terrible decision; ironically, had VAR been in operation, there would be no doubt in anyone’s minds that the goal would have stood. It mattered not, as a minute or so later, on the stroke of half-time, a superb Granit Xhaka ball to Eddie Nketiah, who was out wide on the right, put a pinpoint cross into the Molde penalty area for Kristoffer Haugen to bundle the ball in his own net when harrassed by Joe Willock to send both sides into the break honours even.
After a rather pedestrian first half, much was expected of our players as the second half commenced. With the visitors having the best of the first five minutes, we started to wake up and create chances for ourselves in Molde’s penalty area, with both Sead Kolašinac and David Luiz getting close with half-hearted efforts. When the Molde keeper dropped the ball in front of Sead Kolašinac, it was obvious it would have been easier to score than miss, but of course the latter occurred, with the ball sailing over the bar and an empty net gaping wide. David Luiz got a yellow card for a pointless tackle, and then Joe Willock picked up the ball in the penalty area (after a superb flick-on by Granit Xhaka), put a cross into the box, and Sheriff Sinyan put it into his own net in an attempt to clear it. Twenty-two minutes from time, Bukayo Saka took the ball to the byline, looked up and saw Nicolas Pépé just outside the penalty area. He slotted the ball across and out of the penalty area for the Ivory Coast international to simply place the ball into the Molde net. With consolidation being the name of the game now, Mohamed Elneny replaced Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka was substituted by Kieran Tierney. Eddie Nketiah scored a goal but it was chalked off for offside and more importantly, with just two minutes left on the clock, Joe Willock finally got onto the scoresheet, and what a goal it was, too. He ran onto Nicolas Pépé’s inch-perfect through ball and confidently blasted it into the roof of the net, which was our fourth and final goal of the night, making us worthy 4-1 winners.
In the end, we ran out worthy victors, wearing down plucky Molde; but to be fair, the first half performance was lukewarm, and at times, extremely perplexing. Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah were utterly and truly superb throughout, not only finding spaces for themselves and others, but taking chances with their shooting, which eventually paid off. Our fitness levels were the difference in the end, along with intelligent substitutions by Mikel Arteta which ensured our win here at the Emirates tonight.
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, 8th November at 7.15pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
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