MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 1 – 0 Zurich

Arsenal (1) 1 FC Zürich (0) 0

Europa League, Group Stage Matchday 6 of 6

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Thursday, 3rd November 2022. Kick-off time: 8.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Mohamed Elneny, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Reiss Nelson, Fabio Vieira, Eddie Nketiah; Gabriel Jesus (c).

Substitutes: Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, William Saliba, Cédric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, (Marcus Vinicius Oliveira Alencar) Marquinhos, Karl Hein, Oleksandr Zinchenko, James Hillson, Matt Smith.

Scorers: Kieran Tierney (16 mins)

Yellow Cards: Gabriel

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 56%

Referee: Erik Lambrechts (Belgium)

Assistant Referees: Jo De Weirdt (Belgium), Rien Vanyzere (Belgium)

Fourth Official: Jasper Vergoote (Belgium)

UEFA Referee Observer: Dennis Higler (Netherlands)

VAR Team at UEFA HQ, Nyon, Switzerland: VAR Massimiliano Irrati (Italy); AVAR Hugh Dallas (Scotland) 

Attendance: circa 50,000

Whilst we are guaranteed a “top-two” finish in Group A of the Europa League, we really do need to beat FC Zürich tonight in order to give our considerable efforts in this year’s competition some real definition. Because the group winners will advance directly to the last sixteen of the competition (whilst the runners-up will play in the knockout round play-offs where they will face one of the teams dropping down from the Champions League having finished third in their respective CL groups), a victory tonight is paramount. Just to remind everyone that the Champions League “dropouts” in the play-offs are Ajax Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus, RB Salzburg, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk and Sporting Lisbon, we desperately have to be utterly single-minded in our desire to win tonight to avoid any of that motley crew.

Our Swiss visitors kicked off proceedings, and in the first few minutes, with the smoke of flares drifiting across the pitch from the “away” end, FC Zürich showed some interesting play and proved that they were capable of good movement on (and off) the ball. We need to start imposing ourselves on this game, as in the early stages, the visitors are showing like they are certainly unafraid of coming at us as best as they can, which is worrying, to say the least. There was a bit of a hush in the stadium as the visitors got the first head to a corner and set up Aiyegun Tosin nicely in space for as shot on the turn, but fortunately he fired over and the linesman’s flag went up for offside; no doubt about it, FC Zürich have not come here to make the numbers up. However, on the sixteenth minute, after an excellent Gabriel Jesus chance which was blocked, Ben White overlapped on the right wing to cross the ball, Fabio Vieira saw his shot blocked but the ball fell to Kieran Tierney, who caught his shot perfectly, which flew into the bottom corner to open the scoring this evening. A lovely finish from our Scotland international full-back. We have now woken up and are keen to add to our tally, as Eddie Nketiah hit a perfect strike that Yanick Brecher in the FC Zürich goal saved. Since we scored the goal, we have been the dominant side, and there is a good feeling in the stadium again. The visitors had changed their formation to a more defensive one, as every time we move forward we look extremely dangerous indeed. On the half hour mark, Eddie Nketiah got in behind the FC Zürich defence; he felt a tug on his shirt that could easily result in a penalty, but to be fair to him, he stayed on his feet, set up Fabio Vieira for a shot which was blocked. Unfortunately, Gabriel Jesus was offside from the shot so when it came back again the linemsan’s flag went up. A minute or so later, Aaron Ramsdale was forced into a diving save from a Jonathan Okita shot which had the sting taken out of it by a deflection from Rob Holding. We got close to grabbing a second goal just after the fortieth minute when Eddie Nketiah got free of his marker to meet a corner and glance a header that looked destined for the net, and it would have been, had it not for a brilliant save from goalie Yanick Brecher. After yet another superb Kieran Tierney shot from outside the penalty area which was blocked, we continued to keep up the pressure on the visitors right until the half-time whistle rang out around the stadium

We kicked off the second half and within a minute of the restart, a right-footed shot from Gabriel Jesus on the left side of the six-yard box (following a set piece), caught the goalie and went off for an Arsenal corner, which subsequently went nowhere. Kieran Tierney won a free-kick after a FC Zürich player pulled his shirt so much, that it tore, and he had to have it replaced. So far in the second half, Arsenal were completely in control, and it seems a matter of time before they score a second goal (hopefully). We placed endless presure on the visitor’s goal, and just before the hour mark, Eddie Nketiah had a great chance to score, but his left-footed shot from the left side of the box was blocked. Mikel Arteta had enough, and shortly afterwards Mohamed Elneny and Gabriel Jesus (who passed the captain’s armband to Rob Holding) were substituted for Thomas Partey and Bukayo Saka in an effort to grab more goals tonight. Almost immediately after the introduction of the new players, Thomas Partey showed his class when he started spraying balls around, and although the final piece in the jigsaw did not come together this time when Fabio Vieira blasted the ball over the bar, the movement was still very good. On the sixty-seventh minute, a chill went over the stadium when Adrian Guerrero scored for the visitors, but thankfully some of his team-mates were in an offside position when he hit the ball, so the goal was cancelled out. Bukayo Saka looked as if he was going to score, but sadly he took the ball too fall and it ran off for a goal-kick. Martin Ødegaard and Takehiro Tomiyasu replaced Ben White and Fabio Vieira with seventeen minutes of the game remaining, and still we came forward looking for that elusive goal. Reiss Nelson tried a through ball, but Eddie Nketiah was caught offside, and the match started to lose its flow and rhythm as the game wore on, and with nine minutes of the game remaining, Bohdan Viunnyk whacked a ball from just outside the penalty area and his effort flew just wide of goal, with Aaron Ramsdale at full stretch. FC Zürich kept coming forward, and it was in one of those attacks that Takehiro Tomiyasu was injured, and as he could not continue, our substitute was substituted by Cédric Soares with three minutes of actual time remaining. In the five minutes injury time period, Eddie Nketiah was unlucky in not hitting the target with a glancing header, and as Kieran Tierney re-entered the pitch following treatment, Aaron Ramsdale made a match-winning save at the feet of Adrian Guerrero. Gabriel received a yellow card for a silly incident, and as we entered the sixth minute (?) of injury time, a last-ditch effort by FC Zürich flew over the Arsenal bar, just as referee Erik Lambrechts finally called proceedings to a halt.

Despite a dominant first half, we were unable to score more goals, and as such, it led to some extremely nervous moments throughout the second half, and we managed to show mental and physical toughness to get through this extremely demanding test of character. But despite all this and more, at the end of the day, we won, courtesy of an excellent Kieran Tierney goal, and being top of Group A we are straight into the final sixteen knockout round early next year. And for that, we can all breath a collective sigh of relief.

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: Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, 6th November at 12.00pm (noon) (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

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

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