València (1) 2 Arsenal (1) 4
UEFA Europa League, Semi Final Second Leg
Mestalla Stadium, Av. de Suècia, s/n, 46010 València, Spain
Thursday, 9th May 2019. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Čech, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles; Torreira, Xhaka; Kolašinac, Özil, Aubameyang; Lacazette.
Substitutes: Elneny; Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Leno, Mustafi, Guendouzi, Nketiah.
Scorers: Aubameyang (3), Lacazette
Yellow Cards: Özil, Lacazette
Referee: Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)
There are certain Arsenal matches this season that truly defy description (almost); this game may just fall into that category when the curtain descends on everything in a few weeks time. Make no mistake about it, Arsenal were professional, clinical, utterly single-minded in their approach to ultimate victory and it has to be said truly magical. Despite going behind to a well-taken Kevin Gameiro goal after just eleven minutes, we were neither fazed nor bothered by this unfortunate situation; we just simply dusted ourselves down and started all over again.
The electric partnership between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette simply terrorised the València defence, and when the former equalised the scores seven minutes later, it was to be the start of something truly special here at the Mestalla Stadium. Previous to this, the home side sere in the ascendancy, buoyed by their early goal; their inability to capitalise on this showed their limitations and defensive frailties. Mesut Özil suddenly became the player that we all know he can be; time and time again he popped up to liberally stoke the ball here and there at will to ensure that Arsenal kept up the momentum. By the end of the first half, it was becoming apparent that the eternal triangle of Özil-Aubameyang-Lacazette was completely running the show for Arsenal.
Just five minutes after the restart, the fantastic Alexandre Lacazette left his indelible mark on the game at last. Receiving a pass in the penalty area, he was magnificent in his strength, unbeatable in the turn, and when he finally struck the ball firmly with his trusty right foot, it was only going to end up in one place – the back of the València net. All this seemed to be forgotten when Kevin Gameiro scored his second goal of the night a few minutes later, but hey, who cares? Off we went again. And again Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came to the rescue with yet another goal, only this time his second goal completely destroyed the spirit of the home side, so much so, that their supporters started to leave the stadium with twenty minutes still remaining on the clock. By now, we appeared not to be bothered by the opposition as we controlled play completely. Two minutes from the end of the match, València were unceremoniously snuffed out by the man of the match, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; receiving the ball, he advanced with speed towards the València goal, and as goalkeeper Neto stepped forward to attempt to narrow the angle, the Arsenal man blasted the ball into the roof of the net to finish the night’s proceedings perfectly to propel us into the final of The Europa League, where Chelsea lie in wait for us.
Truthfully, this match was far more than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s hat-trick or Mesut Özil’s vision; it was a brilliant mix of teamwork, effort, work ethic and an incredible desire to win at all costs. Most impressive was tbe attitude of not worrying about the system of play from the home side; our thoughts were quite simply along the lines of “we’re here to win, play however you like, but tonight we are truly unbeatable.” And for ninety wonderful minutes, we really, really were. Arsenal are now just one match away from returning to the Champions League, and if we hold our nerve, concentrate on our game plan, we can do just that. Oh, and also pick up a trophy along the way too, of course. Next instalment in this tale is in Baku on Wednesday, 29th May against our old adversaries Chelsea; don’t be late. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. 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.