Arsenal 4-2 Vorskla Poltava - Gunners dominant in Europa League opener
PUBLISHED: 21:58 20 September 2018 | UPDATED: 21:59 20 September 2018
Arsenal began their Europa League journey with a dominant 4-2 win over FC Vorskla Poltava on Thursday night.
Gunners boss Unai Emery was victorious in his first Europa League match since his Seville side beat Liverpool 3-1 in the 2016 final.
The joint-most successful manager in the competition’s history - with three victories, equalling Giovanni Trapattoni - watched a confident Arsenal overwhelm their Ukranian visitors.
A double from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and goals from Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil came before Volodymyr Chesnakov and Vyacheslav Sharpar earn consolation for the away side.
The Group E opener saw Bernd Leno welcomed with a roar from the half-full stands on his Gunners debut, while Welbeck, Rob Holding - celebrating his 23rd birthday - Lucas Torreira, Mohamed Elneny and Stephan Lichtsteiner made their first starts of the season.
The early stages were casual, with Arsenal dominant in possession and commanding in defence. They were in no rush to break down the Ukrainian side though.
Torreira started in the Andrea Pirlo role, and looked about as casual as the Italian icon, taking advantage of Vorskla’s lacklustre pressing while floating passes and dictating the tempo. Meanwhile, Aubameyang ghosted through the away side’s defence at will.
It was the former Borussia Dortmund striker who opened the scoring, as Dmytro Kravchenko allowed the ball to run after 33-minutes, only for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to collect and drive.
He set Alex Iwobi off down the left, before the Nigerian international sent his switch curling inches in front of the retreating Vorskla defence, before Aubameyang clumsily finished into the corner.
The hosts turned their domination into a constant flurry of chances as half-time loomed, with Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan going close before the whistle.
The restart saw Arsenal double their lead on 47 minutes. Iwobi laid the ball off to Mkhitaryan in space on the left, before the Armenian floated it over for Welbeck to nod in - under no challenge from the two Vorskla defenders standing next to him.
Aubameyang’s final contribution of the match was making it 3-0 less than eight minutes later. Mkhitaryan laid off for the Gunners number 14 to wriggle out of two challenges and bend it past Bohdan Shurst.
The Eastern Europeans were powerless as the rain began to sheet down, with Arsenal putting on a show for the few fans in attendance.
With 15 minutes remaining, Ozil added a fourth. Mkhitaryan chipped over the rushing keeper, before getting his hat-trick of assists when the German tapped in from close-range.
The travelling Ukranian fans were sent wild when the visitors captain grabbed them a consolation. A defensive mix-up saw Chesnakov steal the ball on the edge of the box, before blasting into the top corner past a sprawling Leno.
With their work done, Arsenal relaxed, and allowed substitute and bright talent Emile Smith Rowe delight the crowd with bursting runs and small flashes of his potential.
The final kick of the game saw Vyacheslav Sharpar rifle in, a goal that could help if goal difference becomes a factor.