Arsenal 1-0 PSV: Xhaka's half-volley sends Arsenal into the Europa League knockout stages
Granit Xhaka celebrates scoring the goal that guarantees Arsenal an Europa League knockout spot. Catherine Ivill/Getty Images.

Arsenal beat PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League tie, thanks to a Granit Xhaka strike in the second half. The home team struggled to break the deadlock, being held for 70 minutes by the Dutch side. Mikel Arteta's team are now unbeaten in eight games. 

The home team had the majority of the chances throughout the evening but could not really challenge PSV's goalkeeper. Balon D'or nominated attacker Bukayo Saka brought a lively aspect to Arsenal's forward play, teaming up well with summer signing Gabriel Jesus in the second half.

A slight worry came in the 75th minute when Saka fell to the floor after a brilliant solo run, clutching his lower leg. Initial angst could be heard from Arsenal supporters, with the World Cup so close, but he managed to finish the game comfortably. 

Granit Xhaka's half-volley put the North London team ahead after a pinpoint cross from Takehiro Tomiyasu. Xhaka found himself in acres of space from around 15 yards out, drilling the ball into the bottom corner for the Gunners. 

  • Story of the match

Coming into this fixture, Arsenal were heavy favourites to take three points against PSV, stemming from their fantastic start to the 2022/23 season. However, the Gunners were previously winless in their last three games against their guests, drawing two and losing one. PSV, on the other hand, had a poor record against teams when playing English teams, winning just one of their last 11 matches in England. 

PSV were expected to bring a threat to North London, as underrated stars such as Xavi Simons, Noni Madueke, and reported Arsenal target Cody Gakpo. However, the quality of Arteta's side allowed for domination in possession - therefore, holding the playmakers relatively silent.

The first close chance came from the eventual goalscorer Xhaka, receiving a ball laid off by Gabriel Jesus - who did fantastically to first control a high ball. The Swiss midfielder attempted a bottom-corner shot but dragged it narrowly wide. This sparked Arsenal's attacking desire further.

The Gunners have always been a team to show confidence when taking shots outside of the box, and PSV were happy to let them do so. Gabriel Jesus took the opportunity in the 21st minute, but similarly to the first close call, pulled it just wide. 

It took nearly half an hour for the Dutch side to have their first real opportunity, with young Xavi Simons outrunning the 30-year-old Xhaka, and taking a shot from 20 yards out. The strike, however, was a poor one, and it failed to test Matt Turner at all. 

The first half did not bring a great deal of excitement, but Arsenal were ultimately the better team. 

  • Second half

Arsenal came out sharply in the second half. In the first 15 minutes after the break, Arsenal had barely given away possession. PSV struggled to get the Gunners out of their defensive third, with many waves of unsuccessful attacks hitting the visitor's backline. 

Jesus produced a fantastic run towards PSV's defence, using his pace and technical ability to eliminate his opposition. His strike was low and hard and was batted away by PSV goalkeeper Walter Benitez, but the incoming Eddie Nketiah could not keep the ball down with the rebound shot.

Arsenal began to ramp up the pressure in the final 20 minutes and made arguably game-changing substitutions. Thomas Partey and Martin Odegaard replaced Albert Sambi Lokonga and Fabio Vieira, instantly changing the tempo of the game. Just a minute after the substitutions, Arsenal took the lead through former captain Granit Xhaka. Odegaard picked up the ball in the middle of the park and played it wide to Takehiro Tomiyasu. The Japanese international spotted Xhaka unmarked in the box and provided a pinpoint cross to the midfielder, who caught the ball perfectly on the half-volley. 

Bukayo Saka had the stadium in near silence in the 75th minute after going down injured following a great solo run. The England international appeared in some pain and looked questionable to finish the game. After being checked by medical staff, he was cleared to return to play until his substitution in the 86th minute. 

PSV had some late chances but nothing that truly scared Arsenal. Overall, the home team dominated and deserved to win the three points. Arsenal now take a 1-0 lead to the Netherlands, where they play PSV in a week. 

Arsenal's most creative player, Saka produced five shots, five key passes, and five dribbles. The young England international was a thorn in the side of the PSV defence and had the Arsenal fans standing whenever on the ball. Although not a great performance for any player individually, Saka was arguably the most impactful player on the home team. 

VAVEL Logo