Europa League: Arsenal 3 BATE Borisov 0 (3-1 on agg)
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal secured a place in the last 16 of the Europa League with a resounding victory over BATE Borisov at the Emirates Stadium as Mesut Ozil returned to the starting line-up.
The Gunners went into the second leg needing to turn the tie around following a surprise 1-0 defeat in Belarus last week and Unai Emery’s side completed the comeback in style with a comfortable win.
Given the game kicked off at 5:55pm, there was a sizeable crowd in place to cheer Arsenal into the next round courtesy of a fourth-minute Zakhar Volkov own goal and headers from defensive duo Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Emery opted to recall Ozil after leaving him at home for the first leg and having told the German he needs to overcome minor injuries and bouts of illness to hold down a regular place in his side.
The highest-paid player in the club’s history responded with a good display, linking up play well and showing flashes of his true ability which so often goes missing in games.
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Alex Iwobi tested Denis Scherbitski in the early exchanges as he collected a Stephan Lichtsteiner cross before firing into the gloves of the BATE goalkeeper.
Moments later and Arsenal were ahead, Volkov inadvertently sending a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang centre past Scherbitski to give the hosts a crucial early goal to level the tie on aggregate.
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The Gunners had a decent chance to move ahead for the first time in the two legs but Henrikh Mkhitaryan, guilty of spurning a superb early opportunity in Belarus, blazed high and wide from just inside the penalty area.
If Arsenal thought they were going to coast into the draw for the round of 16, they were given a quick awakening as the Belarusian champions created two goalscoring chances in a matter of minutes.
Maksim Skavysh fired wide after beating Nacho Monreal before Stanislav Dragun – the match-winner in Borisov –saw a goalbound strike cleared off the line by Lichtsteiner.
A long-range Granit Xhaka drive had to be punched behind by Scherbitski before Aubameyang headed onto the roof of the net as Arsenal looked to regain their earlier cutting edge.
Ozil had largely kept things simple following his return to the side but he volleyed over as the half wore on – although the lead would still be doubled before the interval.
Mustafi, so often criticised for his defending, was picked out perfectly by Xhaka from a corner and the German made no mistake in powering his header into the back of the net.
A goal for BATE would still have been enough to see them advance but Arsenal were soon in search of a third goal to take complete control of the tie – Matteo Guendouzi curling a strike inches wide after the restart.
BATE half-threatened on occasion but it was Scherbitski who was busier than counter-part Petr Cech, pushing away an Iwobi effort as Emery’s men searched for a third.
An injury to captain Laurent Koscielny soured the night for Arsenal as he limped off to be replaced by fit-again Sokratis, Ozil taking the armband in the process.
Sokratis had been on the field fewer than four minutes when he headed in the third, rising at the back post to head into an empty net after Scherbitski had come off his line and got nowhere near another Xhaka corner.
Ozil should have sealed a good display with a goal of his own but fluffed his lines when the ball fell to him seven yards from goal.
Arsenal saw the game out professionally, with Denis Suarez coming off the bench to make his home debut, and will head into Friday’s draw looking to again avoid the bigger clubs.