Arsenal secured passage to the Europa League Round of 16 as Unai Emery’s side overturned a 1-0 deficit to progress 3-1 on aggregate with a 3-0 win at the Emirates.
The Gunners got off to the perfect start when BATE Borisov defender Zakhar Volkov bundled the ball into his own net after attempting to clear a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cross.
Shkodran Mustafi doubled the North London side’s lead with a header from a corner 40 minutes in, and Sokratis repeated the feat 20 minutes later in the second half to round off a 3-0 scoreline for Arsenal.
Story of the game
Arsenal started the game hot, and it was no surprise to see the Gunners take the lead within the first five minutes when Aubameyang cross was unfortunately turned in by BATE defender Volkov, who passed the ball into his own net to give the Premier League side the perfect start.
BATE, though, almost came close to a vital away goal when the Belarusian side was able to work the ball into the area and allow their striker, Makism Skavysh, to fire on goal, but Stephan Lichtsteiner managed to make a great goal-line block to keep the score at 1-0.
After Lichtstiener’s block, Arsenal regained control of the game and looked set to score a second goal. Efforts from Alex Iwobi and Granit Xhaka were all saved by the BATE keeper, but five minutes from halftime the Gunners took the lead in the tie.
A corner from Xhaka perfectly found the head of a charging Mustafi, who headed in the second goal of the half to make it 2-0 to the hosts and to give Arsenal the aggregate lead going into halftime.
Arsenal was forced into an early change in the second half when club captain Laurent Koscielny picked up what appeared to be a leg injury. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Gunners, though, as his replacement, Sokratis, made an instant impact on the bench.
Just like the second goal, a Xhaka corner found the head of the Arsenal defender, this time the Greek summer signing, as Sokratis thumped the ball past Scherbitski to make it 3-0 to the Gunners on the hour mark.
Iwobi and Aubameyang came close to making it four for the Gunners, but in the end the North London side had to settle for just the three goals as Emery’s side finished the night 3-0 victors.
Ozil proves his worth
Mesut Ozil returned to the Arsenal side after weeks of off the pitch drama and antics. The ‘will he won’t start’ debate ended as the German made his first start for the Gunners since the end of January, and the former Real Madrid playmaker showed his talent.
The 30-year-old midfielder was the focal point for Emery’s side and controlled the tempo of the game expertly.
Lichtsteiner finally puts in the work
It’s safe to say the free signing of Lichtsteiner hasn’t exactly worked so far for Arsenal. The veteran defender has been ridiculed by Gunner fans for his lacklustre performances at the back, but tonight he finally put in a shift to be proud of.
The former Juventus right back was Arsenal’s best defender on the night and was a key part in the Gunners system in both attack and defence. His goal-line block in the first half was a big moment in the game and overall led to Emery’s side progressing to the next round of the Europa League.
Arsenal’s defence still remains brittle
It was an Arsenal performance to be proud of. Three goals, a clean sheet, and progression to the next round of the Europa League. But despite the positives, the Gunners defence still remains a major problem for the North London side.
Had it not been for the aforementioned Lichtsteiner block in the first half, Arsenal’s defence would have crumbled entirely, and there were still some shaky patches in the second half.