Arsenal (3) 4 Rapid Vienna (0) 1
UEFA Europa League, Group B, Matchday 5 of 6
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Thursday, 3rd December 2020. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Alex Rúnarsson; Cédric Soares, Shkodran Mustafi, Pablo Marí, Sead Kolašinac; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Mohamed Elneny; Nicolas Pépé, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka, Dani Ceballos, Willian Borges da Silva, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Joe Willock, Emile Smith-Rowe, Matt Macey, Folarin Balogun, Miguel Azeez.
Scorers: Alexandre Lacazette (9 mins), Pablo Marí (17 mins), Eddie Nketiah (44 mins), Emile Smith-Rowe (66 mins)
Yellow Cards: Mohamed Elneny, Shkodran Mustafi
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 71%
Referee: Radu Petrescu (Romania)
Assistant Referees: Radu Ghinguleac (Romania), Mihai Marica (Romania)
Fourth Official: Marcel Birsan (Romania)
Referee Observer: Pascal Garibian (France)
Attendance: A maximum of 2,000 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
For the penultimate match in Group B of the Europa League, we are without the services of David Luiz, after his head injury on Sunday’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Emirates. Also on the missing list tonight is Thomas Partey (thigh problem) and Gabriel Martinelli, who has a knee injury, but the big news is that two thousand spectarors are allowed into the Emirates to see the match tonight for the first time in almost nine months! Let’s go!
Good to see the supporters back; our players went across to applaud them just before the kick-off and were greeted with rousing applause all round the stadium. At last. Within ten minutes, the players rose to the occasion, with Alexandre Lacazette picking up the ball from a throw-in, running towards the goal, and with all the confidence in the world, hit the ball from thirty yards into the back of the visitors’ net. By rights, it should have been two-nil a couple of minutes’ later, when Nicolas Pépé jinked and juggled over on the right, crossed the ball low, only for Shkodran Mustafi’s diving header to go a couple of feet wide of the post. Several chances came our way, then from a deceptive inswinging corner by Reiss Nelson, defender Pablo Marí, returning from injury tonight, rose to head the ball into the Rapid net for our second goal after just seventeen minutes. Arsenal were completely in control now, spraying passes across the pitch, creating chances for the wide players to run onto. After some superb movement out on the right, Alexandre Lacazette side-footed the ball against the foot of the post from twenty yards, and just before the half-hour mark, Ainsley Maitland-Niles broke through the visitors’ defence, chipped the goalkeeper, only to see his final effort go wide of the post. Time after time, we won the ball in the critical areas of the pitch and advanced confidently towards the visitors’ goal. A minute or so before half-time, we scored our third of the night, when some quick one-touch passing that started from around the half-way line, which was worked between our players accurately into the penalty area where Reiss Nelson lined it up perfectly for Eddie Nketiah; although his first shot was saved by the goalkeeper, he reacted quickly to head in the rebound to ensure that we went into the half-time break three goals ahead.
The second half commenced with Rapid Vienna scoring a bizarre goal within two minutes of the restart. The ball bounced around like a pinball in our penalty area, pinging from Alex Rúnarsson and out, then on to Sead Kolašinac via Kelvin Arase (twice), before Koya Kitagawa scored for the visitors from close range. Rapid Vienna started to get back into the match now, with two efforts from Yusuf Demir and Koya Kitagawa on our goal going perilously close. A few minutes’ later, some superb work by Nicolas Pépé found Alexandre Lacazette, who was unlucky in not adding to his tally, when his shot went just wide of the post. On the hour, Ainsley Maitland-Niles was also unfortunate not to score, but goalie Richard Strebinger managed to parry his strong shot away for a corner. Mikel Arteta brought on Emile Smith-Rowe, Dani Ceballos and Willian for Alexandre Lacazette, Reiss Nelson and Mohamed Elneny, and just minutes later, young substitute Emile Smith-Rowe grabbed our fourth of the night, when some unselfish work by Nicolas Pépé enabled him to score from close range. Shkodran Mustafi was substituted for Calum Chambers, whose return from injury led to a burst of applause from our supporters. Our substitutes energised the team thoroughly, and we created some exciting chances to score. With ten minutes’ left on the clock, Dani Ceballos was unfortunate not to score when his thirty-yard free-kick was tipped over the bar by Richard Strebinger. Another one of our “young guns”, Folarin Balogun, replaced Eddie Nketiah, which rejuvenated the front line for the remainder of the match. Time and time again, our strikers were putting extreme pressure on the Rapid Vienna goal, with our players playing some close, neat passing football which deserved more goals, but it was not to be.
A thoroughly entertaining match, that saw us not only keep our one hundred per cent record in this season’s Europa League, but also one that gave some of our players a good ninety minute run out to clear the mothballs away. It was good to see the return from injury of both Calum Chambers and Pablo Marí (who also got on the scoresheet, of course), also the young players who came on as substitutes which helped our victory tonight enormously. But make no mistake, it will be a different Arsenal on Sunday afternoon against Tottenham Hotspur, and that match is a must-win for us; with our poor Premiership position, we cannot afford to make any mistakes which ma lead to a defeat. We’ll see.
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: Tottenham Hotspur at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, 6th December at 4.30pm (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.