BATE Borisov 2-4 Arsenal: Walcott double guides visitors to nervy Europa League win

The Gunners survived second-half nerves to put four past the 11-times consecutive Belarusian champions in Borisov, to top Group H after two games

BATE Borisov 2-4 Arsenal: Walcott double guides visitors to nervy Europa League win
Photo: Maxim Malinovsky / Getty Images
BATE Borisov
2 4
BATE Borisov: Scherbitski; Rios, Gayduchik, Milunovic, Polyakov (Volodko, 24'); Volodko (Baha 84'), Dragun; Gordeychuk, Ivanic, Stasevich; Rodionov (Signevich, 55') .
Arsenal: Ospina; Mustafi, Mertesacker, Holding; Nelson (McGuane 79'), Willock (89' Nketiah), Elneny, Maitland-Niles; Walcott, Wilshere; Giroud.
SCORE: Ivanic (28'), Gordeychuk (67'), Walcott (9', 22'), Holding (25'), Giroud (49' pen)
REFEREE: Daniel Stefanski (POL)
INCIDENTS: UEFA Europa League Group H clash between BATE Borisov and Arsenal at the Borisov Arena, Belarus.

A brace from Theo Walcott led a weakened Arsenal side to a nervy eventual 4-2 victory, in their Group H UEFA Europa League clash with BATE Borisov at the Borisov Arena in Belarus.

After Walcott gave the visitors a two-goal lead inside 22 minutes, defender Rob Holding added a third and his first for the club before the hosts pulled one back before the half-hour mark.

Despite an at times ragged second-half display however, Arséne Wenger's men eased home, with striker Olivier Giroud adding a fourth from the penalty spot to become the 19th player to reach a century for The Gunners in the club's history. 

Arsenal now top Group H with six points having played two games so far. 

Walcott early brace

Minutes after Walcott had hit the post for the visitors, the Gunners forward did give Arsenal the lead after Jack Wilshere had danced away from three defenders to find space on the left of the penalty area.

The forgotten man then lofted a cross centrally to Walcott and after his initial header was palmed out by Denis Scherbitski, the former England international was on hand to stab the rebound home.

Walcott then doubled the lead for the North Londoners in the 22nd minute, courtesy of a goalkeeping howler from the BATE 'keeper. The stopper rolled the ball out of his territory straight into the path of Walcott, with the 28 year-old gratefully accepting the gift.

When Rob Holding scored his first goal for the club three minutes later, a rout seemed on the cards in Belarus.

The Gunners' penchant for lapses in concentration struck again however and after a ball from Aleksei Rios was whipped in Mirko Ivanic was on hand to thump his header past David Ospina at the near post. 

The goal raised the volume in the stadium and Ospina was forced to claw out Igor Stasevich's in-swinging freekick but in truth it was the visitors who looked the more likely to re-assert their three-goal cushion.

Scherbitiski made amends on one particular occasion to tip away another Walcott effort away at full-stretch to temporarily deny his hat-trick. The sides went into the break with Arsenal in relative comfort at 3-1.

Giroud 100th goal

For BATE to have any hope of staying in the contest, they would have to hit back first, however any hope of that disappeared after Shkodran Mustafi was awarded a soft penalty to the bemusement of the men in yellow.

Giroud however was not complaining and stepped up to sweep home left-footed to score his 100th Arsenal goal - the 19th man in the club's history.

Despite less more than 40 minutes left to play, events appeared to be academic and were reduced to nothing more than a training session for large parts.

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Gunners become edgy

Both sides continued to show frailties at the back and after BATE had build up a head of steam in the second period, hesitancy from Per Mertesacker allowed Ivanic to steal in for a point-blank header, but after a poor attempt, Ospina could only block out to Mikhail Gordeychuk, who smashed home the rebound.

The visitors were suddenly wracked by anxiety, and the hosts could have made it 4-3 when Aleksandr Volodko's side-foot effort from a cut-back skewed inches wide of the target.

The Belarusians piled forward and forced Arsenal stopper Ospina into a number of formulaic saves, interlaced by the Colombian's now signature erratic aerial decision making.

The Gunners weathered an uncomfortable period toward the end of proceedings however - reducing the hosts to efforts from long range - and ran home 4-2 winners.

Next up, Arsenal travel to Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade) in three weeks time after the international break.