Result: Qarabag 0-3 Arsenal
Competition: Europa League
Date: 4 October 2018
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Baku
Unai Emery’s Arsenal stretched their winning run to eight games as they overcame Azerbaijan side Qarabag 3-0 in Baku. Sokratis, Emile Smith Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi all grabbed their first goals for the club on a low-stress evening that eases us to the top of Europa League Group E.
Arsenal: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Monreal (captain), Kolasinac, Guendouzi, Elneny, Smith Rowe, Iwobi, Welbeck
Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Mustafi, Xhaka, Torreira, Ozil, Lacazette
0′ – A new formation
The boss has made nine changes – only Monreal and Holding retain their places – and there’s a new formation. We’re lining up with centre-backs in defence with Kolasinac and Lichtsteiner playing as wing-backs. The changes don’t stop there…we’re sporting red shorts with our red shirts.
1′ – Olympic effort from the home fans
It’s a big crowd – there are more than 60,000 packed inside Baku’s Olympic Stadium…a stadium, that despite its name, has never hosted the Olympics. Qarabag’s regular home only holds 5,800.
2′ – We’re a long way from home
Fun fact, this is the furthest Arsenal have ever travelled for a competitive fixture. There are approximately 4,000 kilometres between London and Baku…which is apparently a 54-hour car journey. Just as well we didn’t draw this lot during the Bergkamp era.
3’ – First chance for the Gunners
Early chance for the Gunners as Kolasinac collects a long ball from Guendouzi, gets to the byline and picks out Welbeck whose shot is blocked. Elneny’s effort from the rebound is deflected wide for a corner.
4’ – ⚽ GOOOAAAALLLLL Qarabag 0-1 Arsenal, Sokratis
Monreal’s crashing header from Elneny’s corner hits Sokratis and wrong-foots the keeper. It’s the Greek’s first goal for the club and not only that… it’s the first goal scored by an Arsenal player not to play under Arsene Wenger since Glenn Helder! That gem, courtesy of BT Sport.
10’ – Qarabag penalty claim
The home side, in all black, gets the crowd going with a decent spell of possession. Striker Emeghara goes down under pressure from Holding but the ref isn’t having any of it.
15’ – Sead on the run
Kolasinac, making his first appearance of the season since recovering from a knee injury, is a lively presence on the left flank. He’s eager to dribble at every opportunity and the home side don’t seem to know what to do about it.
18’ – Emile Smith…no!
Emile Smith Rowe should be celebrating, but instead he’s flat out on the turf. Brilliant, precise and patient football sees the Gunners work the ball to Kolasinac whose first time low ball across the box is met by the 18-year-old at the back post. On the stretch, he can’t quite squeeze the ball the right side of the post. So close!
21’ – Welbz heads wide
Another Elneny corner is met by an Arsenal man first. This time Welbeck climbs at the near post but his headed effort bounces wide.
27’ – Great save Leno
Wide man Madatov cuts in from the right, bamboozles Monreal and gets off a low left-foot shot that looks to be creeping inside the near post. Leno is down brilliantly to keep the ball out with a big left hand. The home side have grown in confidence.
33’ – Yellow card: Maksim Medvedev
Medvedev pulls Iwobi’s shirt for about five seconds and gets a big shove in the back from the Nigerian who is furious at being stopped in his tracks.
38’ – Half chance Smith Rowe
Kolasinac in space down the left pulls a cross back to Smith Rowe who attempts a spectacular volley. Unfortunately, he slips just before making contact and the ball goes way wide.
39’ – Leno saves again
After a bit of pinball in the Arsenal box, the ball falls to Drozovic who from 10 yards out hammers a half-volley at goal. Leno sees it late and does well to parry the ball clear.
42’ – Gunners keep pushing forward
Another half chance for Smith Rowe following another move that stems down the left. Kolasinac again finds the England youth international but his shot is blocked, as is Guendouzi’s follow-up.
43’ – Yellow card: Rob Holding
The centre-back picks up a card for deliberate handball as he’s falling to the turf on the touchline.
44’ – Close Qarabag!
Medvedev collects a ball inside Kolasinac and fires into the side netting. That was a bit of a let-off for the Gunners.
Half-time: Qarabag 0-1 Arsenal
A relatively comfortable half for the Gunners who probably should have added to Sokratis’ early goal. Iwobi and Kolasinac did well on the ball and Smith Rowe repeatedly worked himself into dangerous positions. His end product was lacking, but he can work on that. It’s not all gone Arsenal’s way though, were it not for two decent stops by Leno it could easily be level at the break.
46’ – Time for Torreira
Lucas Torreira has come on for Nacho Monreal and we’ve swapped to a back four. The Spaniard could have thrown Shkodran Mustafi on and kept faith with the three centre-backs but he’s decided to switch the tactics. The Uruguayan will sit deep next to Guendouzi and it looks like Elneny will push up.
49’ – Qarabag have the ball in the net
Madatov bursts through the Gunners defence, bears down on Leno and tucks the ball into the corner. He wheels away in celebration only to realise the flag has gone up. He’d strayed offside before collecting the through ball. Arsenal are very lucky.
53’ – 4’ – GOOOAAAALLLLL Qarabag 0-2 Arsenal, Smith Rowe
The teenager has his first goal for Arsenal! Iwobi times a pass to perfection and Smith Rowe, on the run in the right channel, keeps his and slides the ball under the onrushing keeper. It’s a goal made in the Gunners Academy and one he thoroughly deserves.
60’ – Guendouzi fires over
…his own goal. Unorthodox defending from the young Frenchman sees him hack away a cross that flies not far over Leno’s bar. Leno does well to smother Emeghara’s effort from the resulting corner.
64’ – Smith Rowe’s night is over
Unai Emery sends Mesut Ozil on for the youngster. What a night for him. Our German is given a big welcome by the home crowd, he’s apparently very popular in these parts.
70’ – Ozil doesn’t shoot
Space opens up for Ozil inside the Qarabag penalty box but he’s desperate to tee up someone else. When he finally releases the ball it’s hammered away by a defender.
71’ – Lacazette comes on
The Frenchman replaces Iwobi, who after a bright first half was muted after the break.
79’ – 53’ – 4’ – GOOOAAAALLLLL Qarabag 0-3 Arsenal, Guendouzi
Welbeck starts a fantastic break by nicking the ball off a Qarabag defender on the edge of the Arsenal area. He gives the ball to Ozil, who in turn feeds Lacazette. The Frenchman picks out his young compatriot on the edge of the area and Guendouzi takes a touch before firing low to the keeper’s right.
86’ – Leno flies to his right
Frenchman Zoubir tests the German’s acrobatics with a rising drive. Our summer signing flings himself at full stretch and tips over.
89’ – It should be four!
Lacazette holds up the ball brilliantly and tees up Welbeck who curls over with the goal gaping. Not long after Lacazette is assisted by Ozil but his shot is blocked and then Guendouzi shoots over from range.
Full time: Qarabag 0-3 Arsenal
We may have ridden our luck at times but there’s no denying we deserved the win on what turned out to be a relatively comfortable evening. It’s great to see youngsters like Guendouzi and Smith Rowe open their account for the club and Leno will be pleased with his clean sheet. We head to Portugal in three weeks time, knowing a win over Sporting Lisbon will all but ensure safe passage to the knockout stages.