Arsenal will take a healthy advantage into the second leg of their Europa League semi final with Valencia after beating the Spanish side 3-1 at the Emirates on Thursday night.
Just like their north London counterparts Tottenham, the Gunners were startled by a fast start from their European visitors, culminating in a deserved opener from Mouctar Diakhaby, who rose higher than no less than three red and white defenders to nod his side in front with just 11 minutes played.
However, a quick-fire Alexandre Lacazette brace quickly restored parity. For the first, the Frenchman played in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a perfectly weighted through ball, before busting a gut to get alongside him quick enough to slot the ball into a practically gaping net.
For the second, Lacazette showed equally ruthless predatory instincts, evading his marker with intelligent movement in the box before prodding a header from Granit Xhaka's cross over the line, despite Neto's best efforts, to hand the home side an unlikely lead.
The two teams sparred stirringly in the second half, with big chances at either end, but ultimately it was the English side who broke the 45-minute deadlock, with Aubameyang firing in a late half volley to dispirit Marcelino García Toral's team ahead of next Thursday's second leg.
Check out 90min's full report of the game below.
Key Talking Point
While Arsenal's well-documented defensive frailties reared their collective ugly heads once more in the opening 15 minutes (for Valencia, at least one of these heads was a familiar sight *cough* Shkodran Mustafi *cough*), Unai Emery will be largely pleased with how they responded.
Once again, it was up to the dynamic duo up front to restore order, with Lacazette doing what he apparently always does in Europa League semi finals - only Radamel Falcao, with seven, has more goals in such games than Laca (five) since 2010 - in finding the net, before his comic book-loving pal sealed the deal with minutes to go.
It certainly wasn't a faultless European performance from the north Londoners, particularly given their exploits against Napoli in the quarter finals, but it was certainly job done for the first half of this tie.
Starting XI: Cech (5); Sokratis (6), Koscielny (7), Mustafi (5); Maitland-Niles (6), Xhaka (6), Guendouzi (6), Kolasinac (5); Ozil (6); Lacazette (8*), Aubameyang (7).
Since 2010, only Falcao (7) has scored more goals than Alexandre Lacazette (5) in Europa League semi-finals. (SdF)— Get French Football News (@GFFN) May 2, 2019
Substitutes: Torreira (6), Mkhitaryan (6), Monreal (N/A).
STAR MAN - A fairly clear-cut one here: Lacazette was the driving force behind everything the Premier League side did right on Thursday night, providing impetus and accuracy at the top of the field, and more than a bit of muscle at the back when required.
LACABLOODCLAATZETTE ❤️— The Peoples Champion (@TroopzAFC) May 2, 2019
Sure, he missed two cracking chances to nab a hat-trick and potentially seal the tie, but hey, we're all fallible and his work rate was outstanding. Besides, as Lionel Messi showed on Wednesday night, perfection is unbecoming...
With the second leg looming in just a week's time, Arsenal will return to domestic duties with the welcoming of relegation-threatened Brighton, while Valencia will travel to Huesca on Sunday night.
Source : 90min