Arsenal 0-0 Red Star Belgrade: Europa League – as it happened

Simon Burnton on 2 November 2017

An oddly lifeless interview with Jack Wilshere, who mumbles monotonously for a bit. Here’s some of what he said:

That was the plan before we started the group: we knew we had the quality to get out of it and wanted to do it as soon as possible. We’re not delighted with the point, but we’ll take it. In the first half I thought they were the better team, had the better chances. In the second half we were better, probably not as good as recent performances. I’m enjoying my football and enjoying being back in an Arsenal shirt. We have to be better when we go to City, but we’ll be ready for it. We’ve got confidence in each other and in ourselves, and we’ll go there full of confidence and hopefully get something out of the game.

Arsenal reach the round of 32!

That was an oddly lifeless match, given that it featured a fair amount of goalmouth incident – there was a bar-hitting here, a goalline clearance there, solo runs, glaring misses. Brief highlights would probably look pretty tasty. But there was a lack of intensity throughout, and from the home side at times an apparent phobia of the penalty area. It was not entirely unencouraging, but almost entirely uninspiring. Still, Arsenal are through, so they’ll be chirpy I suppose.

Final score: Arsenal 0-0 Red Star Belgrade

90+5 mins: Nope.

90+4 mins: The away fans whistle. Arsenal work the ball slowly forward. Can they?

90+2 mins: Giroud lays back to Coquelin, whose tragically mishit effort bounces way wide.

90+1 mins: We’re into stoppage time, and this match is four minutes away from its conclusion.

90 mins: Arsenal just hate crossing. They have got into any number of fine crossing positions today, but have generally chosen to beat the full-back a couple of times and then lay it back.

89 mins: Walcott’s corner is only just too high for Holding, who brows it into touch. Red Star bring Pesic on for Radonjic. And in Germany it’s Koln 5-2 Bate Borisov. Show-offs.

88 mins: Maitland-Niles has the ball on the left. He heads outside, he cuts inside, and he heads outside again, eventually winning the corner. The crowd finds its voice.

86 mins: Red Star are bringing Racic on, and bringing Srnic off.

85 mins: Wilshere is thwacked from behind, no free kick. Then Stojkovic goes down with what appears to be cramp. The crowd boos.

83 mins: This sums up that attack rather well: “Another great opportunity for our striker but … but … Oh.”

82 mins: Meanwhile it’s now Koln 4-2 Bate Borisov. Six goals! Goalhogs.

81 mins: Boakye catches Debuchy as he tries to win the ball. Not a free-kick, the referee decides, but the defender goes down and when Red Star win the ball back a moment later there is a simple pass available for Boakye, whose marker is prostrate. The ball is played, and Boakye settles himself and then … shoots wide of the near post!

79 mins: Nearly-chance! Giroud passes to Elneny, who dinks the ball forward to Walcott, who swings his right foot and … misses the ball completely.

79 mins: Walcott has the ball on the right of the penalty area, with three defenders immediately to his left and four Arsenal players beyond them. He tries a low cross, bizarrely, when a chip to the back stick was the way forward.

76 mins: After many Arsenal passes Wilshere lifts the ball into the area, and Walcott gets plenty of power on his header but not quite enough accuracy to test Borjan.

74 mins: Wilshere runs towards the penalty area, ignores a runner to his right and is well tackled by Gobeljic. He jumps up, dusts himself down, and tackles Gobeljic back, less well. Free kick.

73 mins: The game is petering out a little, particularly unfortunate as there is nearly 20 minutes still to play.

70 mins: Holding leads with a forearm as he jumps with Srnic, and gets booked for it.


69 mins: And Red Star make a change as well. Kanga goes off – and he’s absolutely furious about it, saying some stuff in an aggressive tone of voice (sadly I’ve no idea what he was saying) and kicking an inanimate object or two. Milic is on.

68 mins: Arsenal make their first substitution, bringing Willoff off and Nketiah on.

67 mins: Giroud wins a header in the penalty area, but the referee penalises him for jumping too well, or something. Free kick.

64 mins: Wilshere has a shot cleared off the line! Red Star’s defence was undone by Maitland-Niles’ lovely turn, and Wilshere steals the ball from his team-mate and lifts it over the goalkeeper, but Le Tallec gets back to acrobatically volley clear!

Red Star Belgrade’s Damien Le Tallec clears off the line.
Red Star Belgrade’s Damien Le Tallec clears off the line. Photograph: STRINGER/Reuters


63 mins: Koln now lead Bate Borisov 3-2. They’re having all the fun at the Müngersdorfer.

61 mins: Moments later Wilshere’s low cross is cut out by the sliding Savic, and the ball bounces up into his right hand. The referee is again unmoved.

60 mins: Wilshere goes down over Randonjic’s leg inside the penalty area, but the referee tells him to get up. “Fun tidbit of trivia,” promises Marko Ristic, who is on a plane somewhere. “Vujadin Savic’s dad (the Red Star Belgrade center back with No90 currently playing), Dusan Dule Savic is a Red Star Belgrade legend and scored the last time these two sides met in London at Highbury in the 1978-79 Uefa Cup round of 16. Red Star won 2-1 on aggregate and ended up losing in the final to Borussia Monchengladbach. Either way, Vujadin is very motivated to score in London to match his dad’s feat and he nearly did with his header that hit the bar.” That is an interesting titbit.

57 mins: Further adventures in bad decision-making: this time Willock brings the ball forward, but with Giroud thundering forwards to his left and Walcott to his right, Willock instead shoots weakly and woefully, well wide from 25 yards.

56 mins: Ooooh! Srnic slides the ball in from the right, Elneny slides in but can’t stop it, and somehow it runs through Boakye’s legs. It then transpires that the linesman was flagging, so it wouldn’t have mattered.

54 mins: A fine but just overlong run from Nelson takes him into the penalty area, where he is tackled. He should probably have played in Coquelin to his left, but can be forgiven a little overexcitement.

54 mins: It’s now Koln 2-2 Bate Borisov, which is a good thing from Arsenal’s perspective.

53 mins: Now it’s Arsenal’s turn to hog the ball and push and probe. They panic the defence a couple of times, with Walcott sending in a lovely cross from the right that a defender puts behind before Giroud can turn it in.

51 mins: They do eventually have a shot, but Srnic’s effort was from wide on the right, wasn’t very hard, and generally didn’t make life very hard for Macey.


50 mins: Red Star have been hogging possession for the last few minutes, but all they’ve had to show for it is a throw-in out on the left.

47 mins: Giroud has the first shot of the second half, from 25 yards or so, but it flies well over the bar.

46 mins: The visitors start half two. There have been no intervaledictorian changes. Intervalish? Intervally?

The players are back out. A better 45 minutes await (fingers crossed).

“Can you direct us to a clip of Evra punching a supporter?” pleads Charles Antaki. “I’m not one for violence, but it might be more entertaining than this has been.” This is as clear an image as you’re going to find. It looks worryingly Cantonaesque, but there’s a story to be told about what the fans were doing that so enraged Evra, an ultra-experienced 36-year-old not known for acts of wanton violence.

Half time: Arsenal 0-0 Red Star Belgrade

45+3 mins: That’s the end of half one. Arsenal haven’t been terrible, but neither have they ever put together a period of sustained attacking. Meanwhile the visitors have had the best chance of the game, and also come closest to scoring.

45+1 mins: We’re into stoppage time, of which there will be about three minutes.

45 mins: Red Star miss a sitter! Boakye bursts between the centre-backs and is found by a smart pass, and he sprints away from Holding and into the penalty area. With Macey coming out and an entire world of opportunity opening up in front of him, he sidefoots well wide!

43 mins: Now Elneny picks out Walcott with an excellent pass inside the full-back, but that uses up the move’s total allocation of excellent passes, and thus Walcott’s attempt to pick out Giroud comes to nothing.

40 mins: Srnic and Kanga exchange passes and the former surges into the penalty area and checks back, but with several defenders getting back and getting in the way he can’t pick out a pass. Still, the visitors have plenty of pace and are a threat on the break.

36 mins: Red Star hit the bar! A corner is pulled back to a player in all sorts of space at the edge of the area, whose shot is deflected into the air, and Savic’s header is tipped onto the bar by Macey!

Arsenal’s Matthew Macey makes a save from Red Star Belgrade’s Vujadin Savic.
Arsenal’s Matthew Macey makes a save from Red Star Belgrade’s Vujadin Savic. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/AMA/Getty Images


35 mins: Saves at both ends! Borjan comes out well to save from Giroud, running onto Willock’s good pass, and then Red Star hare down the other end, where Srnic’s 20-yarder is tipped over by Macey.

Red Star keeper Milan Borjan is out quickly to deny Olivier Giroud.
Red Star keeper Milan Borjan is out quickly to deny Olivier Giroud. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images


34 mins: Bate Borisov are suddenly 2-1 up over Köln, having scored twice in three minutes.

33 mins: Srnic runs down the right and sends in a lovely curling low cross, that goes behind one of his team-mates and is then cut out before it could reach the other. Had Red Star’s strikers only been in completely different places, that would have been a great cross.

31 mins: Coquelin wins the ball near the halfway line and heads off – not very quickly – towards Red Star’s penalty area. Giroud runs to his right, Walcott further to the right, and Wilshire is all alone to his left, but Coquelin ignores them all in favour of passing to a defender.

28 mins: In news from the wider Europa League diaspora, Patrice Evra got sent off before Marseille’s game even kicked off, apparently for punching a supporter.

24 mins: Borjan has the ball again and he does clear it this time, but the further hoots from the crowd as the ball loops upfield suggest it wasn’t without a wobble.

21 mins: Giroud falls over while delivering a cross, which rolls apologetically into the arms of Borjan. He then runs to the edge of his area and then, just as he prepares to throw the ball to a team-mate, he also falls over. He keeps hold of it, but the crowd hoots with derision.

19 mins: Elsewhere in Group H, Köln are 1-0 up against Bate Borisov. This is good news for Arsenal, who as things stand are all but through.

17 mins: And then a goal kick.

16 mins: Arsenal win a corner from the left, which leads to another corner from the left and then a corner from the right.

15 mins: Good work from Giroud by the left-hand corner flag, as he tricks his way past Stojkovic (No30) and Savic (No90). He’s then brought down, but not before accidentally palming Stojkovic in the face, which results in way too much rolling around for the apparently injured player to be taken remotely seriously.

13 mins: Red Star’s team contains their No4, their No7 and their No8, but their average squad number is 39.6. Is this some kind of record? There’s a 49, a 55, a 77, an 82 and a 90. What is this madness?

Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson in action with Red Star Belgrade’s, number 49, Nemanja Radonjic.
Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson in action with Red Star Belgrade’s, number 49, Nemanja Radonjic. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters


12 mins: Kanga masses to Radonjic, in space and excellently placed outside the area, but his control is rubbish and the ball rolls harmlessly out of play.

11 mins: Chance for Arsenal! Maitland-Niles gets into the area and passes inside to Giroud, who thumps a left-foot shot towards the near post, where Borjan saves. His hamstring looks OK, then.

10 mins: Giroud goes down after challenging Donald for a header, and eventually gets up, clutching his left hamstring. “Wow, Mario Balotelli was once banned for three matches for insulting today’s ref?” boggles Peter Oh. “That must have been one heck of a tirade. What might be the insult equivalent of a late, two-footed, studs-up tackle from behind?” I am unable to provide a witty answer without resorting to lazy national stereotypes.

7 mins: Nelson sprints down the right and then tries to pass to Giroud; a defender gets there first but the ball drops to Walcott on the edge of the area, and his shot is deflected wide. The corner is cleared.

5 mins: Another troubling moment for the home side: Macey’s attempted clearance goes straight to a forward, 20 yards out, but he’s sufficiently shocked at the gift that he can’t immediately control, and then a defender gets in his way.

4 mins: Kanga plays a lovely ball down the left for Radonjic, but the low cross is cut out at the near post. Still, that was too easy.

1 mins: Forty-five seconds in and we’ve already had one moderately threatening Arsenal attack and a diving clearing header by Macey at the other end.

1 min: Peeeeeeeep! Arsenal get the ball rolling.

They’re out, and hands have been shaken. Actual football is but moments away.

The players are in the tunnel!

And the Red Star fans are getting excitable.
And the Red Star fans are getting excitable. Photograph: Craig Mercer/CameraSport via Getty Images


Refwatch: This is Luca Banti’s first game involving an English side for three years. That was a 4-1 Europa League victory for Everton over Wolfsburg, in which he gave Everton a penalty, and his previous visit to these shores was for Tottenham’s 3-0 win over Dinamo Tbilisi in 2013. Also in that year, Mario Balotelli was banned for three matches for insulting him.

And the teams once again, but all in one place this time:

Arsenal: Macey, Nelson, Debuchy, Elneny, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Willock, Walcott, Giroud, Wilshere. Subs: Cech, Akpom, Da Silva, McGuane, Nketiah, Osei-Tutu, Sheaf.
Red Star Belgrade: Borjan, Stojkovic, Le Tallec, Savic, Gobeljic, Krsticic, Donald, Srnic, Kanga, Radonjic, Boakye. Subs: Supic, Frimpong, Racic, Hadzic, Babic, Milic, Pesic.
Referee: Luca Banti.

Red Star have also announced their side:

Arsenal have announced their team. Matt Macey starts, having been on the bench a couple of times of late.

Hello world!

The simple maths: Arsenal will certainly qualify from Group H if they win, or if they draw and Köln get a point or more against BATE Borisov. If they slip up tonight they’ll probably go through anyway, but still. Their last defeat in the Europa League/Uefa Cup was way back in March 2000, though they have played only eight games since then (seven victories and a draw, since you ask), and though it took an outrageous Olivier Giroud goal to earn them maximum points in Belgrade a fortnight ago, they deserved to win that game despite being away from home and not playing particularly well. You can read all about that game here:

Omen dept: With victory tonight Arsenal would have won their first four matches of the group stage, a feat they have managed in European competition only once, in 2005 – and that year they went all the way to the final. With a trip to Manchester City to come on Sunday expect to see a few personnel changes – “I’ve gone into a rotation policy and I want to stick to that at the moment,” says Arsene Wenger. Team news to come as I get it. And in the meantime, hello!


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