Alexandre Lacazette struck a brace and strike partner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang invaluably struck late on to hand recovering Arsenal a sizeable 3-1 semi-final advantage against Valencia in the Europa League.
Los Che started brightly and justifiably went ahead when France Under-21 midfielder Mouctar Diakhaby headed in at the back post on 11 minutes. This moment, however, stung Thursday’s then laboured hosts into life.
A flowing counter-attack witnessed Gabon’s Aubameyang unselfishly cutback for his French strike partner to roll into an open goal on 18 minutes. A powerful header soon could not be kept out by Brazilian goalkeeper Neto as the Gunners took the lead.
A fluffed header and two close-range blocks in the second half would deny both Lacazette a hat-trick. His blushes were saved when Bosnia left wing-back Saed Kolasinac picked out the loitering Aubameyang to expertly volley home on 90 minutes, lifting the atmosphere at Emirates Stadium.
Here are the Arsenal player ratings:
Petr Cech 6: On what is likely to be the final home game of a fantastic 20-year career, Cech was caught in no man’s land for opener. Rarely called into action after that.
Shkodran Mustafi 6: Along with Xhaka, ex-Valencia defender lost track of Diakhaby. Otherwise, was alert on 69 minutes to clear Cech spill.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos 7: Strong early challenge on Diakhaby showed resolve. Later, was alert and quick to stop Guedes.
Laurent Koscielny 7: Did brilliantly to deny Guedes a clear header. Veteran was already tiring by that stage, soon removed.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles 5: Curious header almost gifted Valencia a valuable second. Didn’t really do enough in opposition half, either.
Matteo Guendouzi 6: Played in an unusually advanced role in first half. Barely lasted into the second, however. Pass accuracy of 95.9 per cent deserves credit.
Granit Xhaka 7: Driving display from the Switzerland international. Pumped in succession of crosses, including for Lacazette’s second.
Sead Kolasinac 7: Failed to complete one of his five crosses before 80-minute mark, then produced when it mattered for Aubameyang’s invaluable late effort.
Mesut Ozil 4: Another nothing performance in a nothing season from ex-Germany creator. No key passes or shots. What’s the point?
Alexandre Lacazette 7: Did so well to be alive and precise with first-half finishes. These qualities, however, deserted former Lyon star after the break. Will Arsenal still come to rue this next week?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 8: A superb performance during an otherwise subdued end to the season. Utterly selfless to tee up Lacazette’s first and create opportunity for a third, then lashed in on back post. That’s 43 goals between the pair this season.
Lucas Torreira 5: Really didn’t do a great deal after Uruguay midfielder was thrust on early in second period.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan 5: Only impact from Armenia playmaker was on ex-Gunners defender Gabriel leg.
Nacho Monreal N/A: Versatile Spain international kept the door shut.
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