Arsenal boss Unai Emery was a happy man after watching his players rip BATE Borisov apart to secure a 3-0 win and qualify for the round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League courtesy of a 3-1 aggregate win. The Gunners went into the encounter at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night trailing by a lone goal from the shock defeat suffered in Belarus last week, and there was to be no repeat of the tepid display then.
It took only four minutes for Arsenal to open the scoring on the night and draw level on aggregate when a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ball in was turned into his goal by Zakhar Volkov before German defender Shkodran Mustafi powered a header past the BATE goalkeeper to double the home side’s advantage as Arsenal went into the lead for the first time over the two legs of the tie with six minutes left before half time in London.
Emery was forced to make a change just before the hour mark when club captain Laurent Koscielny suffered a knock, but his replacement, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, towered above his marker to make it 3-0 for Arsenal within minutes of coming on. The Gunners were largely untroubled as they eased into the last 16 of the Europa League, with the determination to win shown by the players pleasing Emery.
“The result is good. We are improving, and our mentality was good for this match,” Emery stated after the game. “This competition is important for us, and the result in the first match was not good. So the team did very well to come back. We spoke this morning, and in the dressing room before the match: if we score, carry on. If we score a second goal, carry on. If we score a third goal, carry on. We need this mentality. The players did the gameplan like we want.”
Arsenal’s head coach gave Mesut Ozil a rare start but it was Nigerian international, Alex Iwobi, that was the creative force of the Premier League side during the early stages as they sought a swift breakthrough. The Super Eagles star quickly forced a save from the BATE goalkeeper and almost curled in a gorgeous second for Arsenal soon after the own goal, with his movement causing BATE persistent problems.
The win will serve as good preparation for Arsenal, who now prepare to face Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday as they continue to chase a top four finish in the league and book a spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League. Emery’s men currently occupy fifth place with 50 points, a point and a place behind Manchester United.