Arsenal 1-0 Qarabag: Alex Lacazette clinches Europa League victory
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Arsenal hosted FK Qaragbag at the Emirates in the Europa League on Thursday evening. Read on for Layth Yousif’s match report.
A 16th minute Alex Lacazette goal sealed a 1-0 victory over FK Qarabag in the Europa League on a bitterly cold evening at the Emirates.
With the match already a dead rubber with Unai Emery’s side achieving qualification as Group E winners after the 3-0 win in the Ukraine last time out the home side fielded an experimental team laced with youth and experience.
Gunners captain Laurent Koscielny started for the first time since suffering a serious achilles injury at Atletico Madrid since May.
The experienced centre-half who played for Freddie Ljungberg’s U21 side against Portsmouth at Fratton Park in the Checkatrade Trophy last week is now fully recovered from the ruptured achilles picked up at the Metropolitano.
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Mesut Ozil also made the line-up along with starlets Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka with Carl Jenkinson and goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles who spoke with such powerful eloquence this week about the racism he has encountered in his career was also included by Emery in an experimental side in this dead rubber against the side from Baku.
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With Arsenal already qualified as top dogs more eyes were on the sides the North Londoners could face in Monday’s draw at UEFA headquarters in Nyon.
The lack of excitement at this tie was reflected in a half-empty Emirates with many seasoned observers pondering whether the attendance could be lower than the 25,000 that were present against Manchester City in the league on a similarly bitterly cold evening, four days after the League Cup final defeat to Pep Guardiola’s side back in February.
Those that braved the elements could at least console themselves with an Alex Lacazette goal after only 16 minutes as his clinical low finish past Vagner in the Qarabag goal put the Gunners 1-0 up.
Earlier in the move a determined Sako won a free-kick that led to Ozil playing an assist to his colleague to break the deadlock.
No wonder U18 boss Ken Gillard, speaking to the Islington Gazette after the U18s 2-0 victory over Northampton U18s to progress to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup said the club is in ‘good shape’ at all levels.
As the temperatures plummeted in the second half a raft of substitutes disrupted the flow as the game petered out as a contest – even if Zaxh Medley and Charlie Gilmore, on for Lacazette and Ozil, will never forget the night they played at the Emirates.