Arsenal 4-2 Vorskla Poltava: Europa League – as it happened

Scott Murray on 20 September 2018

So this MBM comes to a close. It’s been a good night for Arsenal. Amy Lawrence was at the Emirates, and she’s filed the definitive report on the game. Thanks for reading, wherever you may be. Nighty night!

And now we hear from Unai Emery: “We were disappointed with the two goals, because we play well for 90 minutes. We want to do better. We want to go forward and score more goals, but not concede at the back as we did today. It is important to start with victory in this competition, and give chances to many players. And also to gain confidence. We need those players because we are going to play a lot of matches. I want to be competitive in each match.”

Danny Welbeck talks! “I think it was a convincing win, though it was difficult in the first half, because they had a gameplan to sit back and make it difficult. We had to be patient, to implement the combinations, and try to get opportunities to score. And we did, we got a few goals, though it’s very disappointing to concede goals as well. All the lads are enjoying working with Unai Emery, and everyone’s behind his ideas, we’re looking to impose our style of play and keep on getting better. It’s not going to work straight away, but we want to keep on improving.”

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang speaks! “We played well in the first half, and the beginning of the second as well. We scored goals, but we have to improve and not concede as we did in the last minute. I didn’t play the Europa League last year with the guys, so I am really happy to be back in this competition. We want to get to the final. It is good to start with a win.”

That result means Arsenal top Group E after the opening game. In the group’s other fixture, Sporting beat Qarabag 2-0.

So Arsenal start their Europa League campaign with a victory. They started slowly, and could easily have fallen behind in the first half, but after scoring a fine goal on the break seconds later, grew into the match. They were very impressive from that point onwards, at times playing some very entertaining football. A couple of late goals for Vorskla removed some of the shine, but the Ukrainians deserved those consolations, having contributed to a highly enjoyable game. Who needs the Champions League, huh?

FULL TIME: Arsenal 4-2 Vorskla

A millisecond after the ball hit the back of the net, the referee blows for full time! Well that was entertaining.

GOAL! Arsenal 4-2 Vorskla (Sharpar 90+3)

Kolomoets sends Rebenok away down the left. Rebenok pulls the ball back for Sharpar, on the edge of the area. Sharpar unleashes an unstoppable shot into the top left!

90 min: Monreal zips down the left but can’t find anyone in a crowded area with his cross. There will be three extra minutes.

89 min: ... nothing happens. But it’s been good fun this game, right?

88 min: Guendouzi wins a crunching challenge in midfield, spins and sends Ozil skittering down the left. Ozil loops a ball towards the far post, towards nobody in particular, and it’s cleared out for a corner. From which ...

87 min: Everyone’s winding down now.

85 min: Artur dribbles prettily down the left, but having made space for himself can’t find anyone in the middle. Arsenal go up the other end through Ozil, who reaches the byline on the left and cuts back for Smith Rowe. A chance for the young man to shoot, but he hesitates for a split second and his eventual effort is easily blocked.

83 min: Serhichuk drives infield from the right and for a second looks like earning an opportunity to shoot from distance. But Guendouzi harries him out of it.

81 min: A nice burst by Smith Rowe, who dances past a couple of desperate challenges down the left, shimmies his way inside, and nearly sets Welbeck free down the channel. But he puts too much weight on the pass and hollers in frustration. The crowd enjoyed that, though.

80 min: Vorskla continue to press forward, looking for another consolation. The ball’s spooned into the Arsenal box, but Serhichuk can’t get any power on his header, and Leno claims.

78 min: So Arsenal still haven’t kept a clean sheet this season. Kobakhidze makes way for Serhichuk.

GOAL! Arsenal 4-1 Vorskla (Chesnakov 76)

Rebenok’s free kick, basically a corner from the left, is , chipped into the box and cleared by Holding. But that leads to a scrappy scramble on the edge of the area. Chesnakov breaks into the box and lashes a stunner into the top left. Leno had no chance!

75 min: Careca, not that one, replaces an as-yet-unidentified team-mate. He quickly earns a free kick down the left. From which ...

GOAL! Arsenal 4-0 Vorskla (Ozil 74)

Sokratis chips a pass down the right for Lichtsteiner, who enters the area and loops to the far post. Ozil drifts in from the left to meet the ball, and guides it cleverly between two covering defenders with a poke of his studs. In it goes!

Ozil scores number four.
Ozil scores number four. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

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73 min: Vorskla are enjoying a bit of possession now, Arsenal’s second-half fire having fizzled out a little with all those substitutions. But they’re not really doing much with it. It’s all very comfortable for Arsenal.

71 min: Sharpar hoicks a long pass down the right for Rebenok, who hares into space. He crosses to Kolomoets in the centre, but the new boy Smith Rowe intercepts with a diving header. Corner, which comes to nothing.

70 min: Kravchenko is replaced by Skylar, while Iwobi - the man of the match? - makes way for Smith Rowe.

68 min: Chesnakov goes for goal from 45 yards! Give him credit for his sunny optimism. Of course, the preposterously ambitious effort is dragged harmlessly miles left, dribbling out of play as Leno trots across to prepare for a goal kick.

66 min: The very promising Guendouzi ghosts down the middle of the park and slips a cute pass down the inside-left channel for Ozil, who enters the box. Ozil never quite gets a window of opportunity to shoot, though, and eventually dribbles the ball out of play for a goal kick. But that was lovely play from Guendouzi, who created something from a very crowded position.

Ozil attempts to cut one into the area.
Ozil attempts to cut one into the area. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

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65 min: Iwobi clears the free kick. He’s been superb. The ball’s looped back into the mixer, though, and Kolomoets nearly meets it with his head, six yards out. Sokratis and Holding crowd him out.

64 min: Monreal clumsily bowls Kulach to the ground as the Vorskla man runs down a cul-de-sac on the right. A free kick and a rare chance to load the Arsenal box.

62 min: The rain’s coming down at the Emirates now. And the wind’s whipping around a little bit too. But the weather isn’t dousing the spirit of the Arsenal fans, who have found their voice. And no wonder: after that sluggish start, their heroes are now playing very well indeed.

60 min: Elneny drags back Kulach, a soft hand on his shoulder. It’s a booking usually, but this game has a training-ground feel now, the result beyond question, and the referee simply can’t be bothered.

58 min: That was Aubameyang’s last act of the evening. His job done, he’s replaced by Ozil. And it’s a double change, because Torreira is off to rest that sore ankle, Guendouzi coming on in his place. Seconds later, Mkhitaryan Maradonas his way down the inside-right channel, but kicks the turf as he looks to end the dribble with a goal. That would have been very pretty.

GOAL! Arsenal 3-0 Vorskla (Aubameyang 56)

And here’s another. Mkhitaryan drives down the middle and looks for a one-two with Aubameyang. But he doesn’t get the pass back. Instead, Aubameyang nips the ball past Artur, takes a step to the right, and thrashes it into the bottom right from the edge of the box!

Aubameyang scores The Gunners third.
Aubameyang scores The Gunners third. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

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55 min: Mkhitaryan rolls a ball down the right in the hope of releasing Aubameyang. There’s too much juice on the pass, and Shust is able to race to the edge of his area to claim. But Arsenal are looking dangerous every time they go forward now.

54 min: Sharpar slips a pass down the left for Rebenok, who briefly looks like causing Sokratis a problem. But the defender sticks to his task and slide-tackles the ball away from the marauding winger. He’s made a couple of big, timely challenges tonight.

52 min: Arsenal look a totally different proposition since the break. Well, since the opening goal, I guess. They’re snapping into challenges now, pressing Vorskla hard, first to everything. Such a difference to their early passivity. Iwobi makes good down the left and loops a cross towards Aubameyang, who should really get something on target at the far post but gets his body shape all wrong and karate-kicks an effort over the bar.

50 min: It should be 3-0. Aubameyang races into acres down the left, latching onto a poor defensive backwards header. He thinks about shooting from a tight angle, but rolls the ball across the face of goal instead. Welbeck, sliding in at the far post, can only guide it wide right.

GOAL! Arsenal 2-0 Vorskla (Welbeck 48)

Welbeck had done very little this evening, but this was lovely. Iwobi dribbles down the left again. He draws two players then lays off for Mkhitaryan, who has space and time to send an inswinger onto the head of Welbeck. The striker’s timed his run perfectly, and gently eyebrows a header into the top right, leaving Shust rooted to the spot.

Welbeck heads home Arsenal’s second.
Welbeck heads home Arsenal’s second. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

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47 min: Iwobi continues to cause bother down the left flank. He wanders past Kravchenko and cuts one back for Mkhitaryan, who should do a lot better than shinning his shot wide left from ten yards.

46 min: Kobakhidze tries to burst down the right flank but he’s clipped from behind by Aubameyang, who is slightly fortunate to escape a yellow card.

And we’re off again! Arsenal get the party restarted. No changes.

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... and the Recap!

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HALF TIME: Arsenal 1-0 Vorskla

There’s just enough time for Mkhitaryan to nearly break clear into the Vorskla box, only to overrun his own flick through. And that’s that for the first half. Arsenal were pedestrian until they scored an excellent goal on the break. Since then, they’ve improved immensely, and the gap in quality has been clear to see. Arsenal are slowly easing themselves into this year’s Europa League.

45 min +1: Arsenal have finally come to life, because for the first time in this match Vorskla are rocking a bit. Mkhitaryan twists and spins down the inside left, turning in a tight spot and suddenly sending a rising shot straight at Shust, who tips over spectacularly. The corner comes to nought.

45 min: This is sensational from Aubameyang. He glides in from the left, past a couple of green shirts and into a pocket of space. He opens up and sends a dipping curler towards the bottom right. Shust is beaten all ends up, but the ball clatters the bottom of the right-hand post and out. So unlucky!

43 min: Iwobi has been excellent in this first half. He dribbles with great style down the left and bursts into space. His low cross very nearly finds Aubameyang, a few yards out. But not quite.

42 min: Rebenok threatens to break clear down the inside left, but a last-ditch intervention by Sokratis puts a stop to his gallop. Arsenal have been leaving quite a few large gaps at the back. A sharper team than Vorskla may have caused them some heartache.

40 min: Vorskla steady the rocking ship with some possession football at the back. There’s a sense that both teams would be happy enough to go in at 1-0 right now. Not much happening.

38 min: Arsenal load the box. But Torreira whips the free kick round the right-hand side of the wall, looking to catch Shust out and score in the bottom right corner. He only finds the side netting, but that’s a decent effort from a player the Arsenal fans have already warmed to.

36 min: Vorskla have visibly wilted since conceding. They were doing very well up until the goal. Now Rebenok brings down Lichtsteiner as the Arsenal man looks to shimmy in from the right. A free kick in a very dangerous position.

34 min: That was some textbook end-to-end football. And it demonstrates the thin line between success and failure in football. Had Kobakhidze played the early ball, there’s a fair chance Arsenal would have been a goal down. Instead, a dismal pass inside allowed Arsenal to counter, and they did so with a wonderful flourish.

GOAL! Arsenal 1-0 Vorskla (Aubameyang 32)

Kobakhidze goes racing down the right. He should cross early for Kulach, who is in acres in the centre. But he hesitates, then plays a dreadful gift inside for Mkhitaryan, who sets Iwobi away down the left on the counter. For once, Vorskla are short at the back, having committed to Kobakhidze’s attack. Iwobi swings a cross towards Aubameyang, racing into the box on the right. Aubameyang sticks out a leg and guides it back across Shust and into the bottom left!

Aubameyang scores the opener.
Aubameyang scores the opener. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images
Welbeck congratulates his team mate.
Welbeck congratulates his team mate. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

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30 min: Kolomoets and Torreira challenge for a high ball in the centre of the park. Kolomoets takes an accidental clap on the side of the face, while Torreira lands awkwardly on his ankle. Both will continue, though neither appear too happy with life at the moment. A world of pain.

28 min: The lively Iwobi is fed by Monreal down the left. Iwobi opens his body and looks to curl one across Shust and into the top right. It’s high and wide, but close enough to qualify as a decent effort. For the first time tonight, the keeper looked in a bit of a panic.

26 min: Aubameyang drives towards the Vorskla area, and for a second threatens to burst through a gap and into a shooting position. But he lets the ball bobble off his boot and onto his thigh, allowing the men in green to swarm around him and put a stop to his scheme.

24 min: Perduta clatters into Iwobi, who is looking a threat out on the left. It should be a free kick ... but isn’t. Perduta clears his lines.

22 min: Most of the noise in the stadium is being made by the Ukrainian support. Then there’s a bit of a surge from the home fans as Elneny lets a simple pass run under his boot and out for a throw. Then some more frustration as Iwobi streams down the left and rolls a pass through the Vorskla box for Elneny, who takes a touch instead of shooting first time from 12 yards. That’s that chance gone, then.

20 min: A corner for Arsenal out on the right. Within seconds the ball is back at the feet of Leno. Hmm. Arsenal haven’t seriously tested Shust yet.

19 min: Sharpar is booked for standing on Elneny’s foot. That’s clumsy and deserving of yellow.

18 min: Rebenok, the best part of 35 yards from goal, takes a shot. He sends a risible pea-roller towards the bottom right, and it’s a little bit of exercise for Leno, who bends down to gather, nothing more.

17 min: Mkhitaryan tries to release Lichtsteiner down the right, but a heavy pass clanks out of play for a goal kick. Shame for Arsenal, because there was a lot of space for the right-back out on the flank.

15 min: Iwobi turns on the jets and wheechs down the left. He reaches the byline and cuts one back for Aubameyang, but Dallku toe-pokes the ball away from danger before the Arsenal striker can shoot.

13 min: Corner for Arsenal on the left. Sharpar heads it away. Arsenal come back at Vorskla down the left through Torreira, but the Uruguayan can’t diddle his way past Perduta. Arsenal are beginning to take a measure of control, though.

11 min: Some spectacular goalkeeping from Shust! A long Arsenal punt forward, and Iwobi is threatening to get on the end of it on the edge of the box. Shust races out of his area and clears with the most spectacular diving header seen in north London since Keith Houchen scored that goal for Coventry in the 1987 FA Cup final.

9 min: Kulach chases after a flick-on down the right, and from distance decides to see if he can replicate Jamie Vardy’s famous goal against Liverpool during Leicester City’s title season. He can’t, the ball sailing harmlessly into the stand behind Leno’s goal. But full marks for ambition.

7 min: Mkhitaryan bustles down the right, then cuts infield and attempts a one-two with Lichtsteiner, whose backheel fails to come off. But only just. So close to opening Vorskla up.

6 min: Rebenok tries to beat Iwobi in a footrace down the left. He fails. Not sure why he decided to get involved in that, because he had men in space infield and Arsenal were light at the back. Still, he’s won a throw. From which Artur slips a pass down the inside-left channel for Kulach, who is in acres. But he’s also offside.

4 min: Perhaps too hard, as Kulach comes sliding in recklessly on Torreira, who felt the challenge all right. Kulach is very fortunate to escape a booking; it’s just a stern word from the ref.

Kulach slides in on Torreira.
Kulach slides in on Torreira. Photograph: Henry Browne/Getty Images

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2 min: All a bit scrappy in the early stages. Vorskla are pressing hard.

And we’re off! Vorskla get the ball rolling, launch it long, and out of play down the right. From the Arsenal throw, the ball ends up at the feet of Kulach, who has a bit of space to work with but loses control of his feet. Onwards and upwards.

Ah, with four minutes to go, BT Sport switch their attention from idle chatter about a regulation 1-0 win for Chelsea to events at Highbury. The teams are trotting out, Arsenal in their famous red-and-white shirts, Vorskla in second-choice green. A reasonable atmosphere in a not-particularly-full stadium. Those 19 consecutive Champions League seasons seem a long time ago right now.

You’d think BT Sport would be concentrating on the Arsenal game now. But they’re not. “That looks like cheap plastic veneer over chipboard in the Arsenal dressing room,” opines Bruce Jackson. And to think the halls at Highbury were made of marble.

The early kick-offs have just finished. Chelsea have won at PAOK, while Rangers followed up a flat first half at Villarreal with a fine second 45, and came away with a deserved 2-2 draw.

This is the most exciting shot I could find of the Arsenal dressing room ahead of the match. Bernd Leno’s shirt, hanging on a shoogly peg.

Just 6/10 for the wood panelling. It’s too functional a look for a grand club like Arsenal. Claude Waterlow Ferrier, the man who brought the Art Deco style to Highbury, will be spinning in his grave.
Just 6/10 for the wood panelling. It’s too functional a look for a grand club like Arsenal. Claude Waterlow Ferrier, the man who brought the Art Deco style to Highbury, will be spinning in his grave. Photograph: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

The big news for Arsenal is the long-awaited debut of goalkeeper Bernd Leno. He’s one of eight changes to the team, replacing Petr Cech. Lucas Torreira makes his first start for the Gunners, shoring up the midfield alongside Mohamed Elneny, who appears for the first time this season. For the record, the three starters left standing from last weekend’s victory at Newcastle are Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Nacho Monreal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The teams

Arsenal: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Papastathopoulos, Monreal, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Elneny, Iwobi, Aubameyang, Welbeck.
Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Lacazette, Ozil, Guendouzi, Nketiah, Smith-Rowe.

Vorskla: Shust, Perduta, Dallku, Chesnakov, Artur, Kobakhidze, Kravchenko, Sharpar, Rebenok, Kulach, Kolomoets.
Subs: Tkachenko, Giorgadze, Sklyar, Sergiychuk, Mysyk, Nicolas Careca, Sakiv.

Referee: Bart Vertenten (Belgium).

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Preamble

It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since Arsenal won a European trophy, Alan Smith, Parma, all that. There was some serious talent on display in Copenhagen that night of the 1994 Cup Winners Cup final: Smith, Paul Merson, Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, David Seaman, Thomas Brolin, Faustino Asprilla, Roberto Sensini, Gianfranco Zola. Ian Wright missed out through suspension. God I feel old. What point was I trying to make? Ah yes.

They’ve had some near scrapes with triumph since. The 2006 Champions League final against Barcelona, principally, and the 2000 final of this competition’s predecessor, the Uefa Cup, against Galatasaray. But poor old Arsene Wenger was destined never to win a cup on the continent. For a wee while earlier this year, the fairytale swansong was on. But Atletico Madrid had too much savvy in the semis, and that was that.

Wenger’s successor, however, is a man who knows exactly how to go about the Europa League. Unai Emery has won it three times with Sevilla; only Giovanni Trapattoni can claim a similar haul in Europe’s secondary competition. So could this be the start of something special? Well, there’s a long way to go, of course. About 100 games of Uefa’s bloated format if memory serves. But a fast start tonight will get folk dreaming of glory.

And there’s a fair chance of that. Tonight’s opponents Vorskla Poltava will be no pushovers, qualifying after finishing third in Ukraine last season. But the Gunners have a fine home record against teams from Ukraine: two wins over Shakhtar Donetsk, two wins over Dynamo Kyiv, and a draw against Kyiv during a campaign which saw Valeriy Lobanovskyi’s side make it to the semis of the Champions League. It all augurs well.

So will Emery lead Arsenal to their first European pot since 1994, and his fourth Europa League overall? The quest begins here. It’s Group E of the 2018-19 Europa League! It’s Matchday 1! It’s on!

Kick off: 8pm BST.

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