Vorskla Poltava 0-3 Arsenal: Unai Emery’s side secure top spot in Europa League Group E

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Arsenal forward Joe Willock celebrates scoring his first senior goal for the club

A youthful Arsenal side scored three first-half goals to cruise past Vorskla Poltava in Kiev and secure top spot in Europa League Group E.

The match had initially been in doubt because of security concerns in Poltava, but Uefa intervened and moved the tie to the Ukraine capital.

Teenage forward Emile Smith Rowe scored his second goal in as many European starts, before Aaron Ramsey converted his first penalty for the club.

Nineteen-year-old Joe Willock claimed his first senior goal for the club four minutes from half-time in below freezing conditions.

With qualification already certain before kick-off, Unai Emery’s men knew three points would clinch top spot because of a better head-to-head record with second-placed Sporting Lisbon.

Arsenal will now avoid the four best teams dropping down from the Champions League in the last 32.

Arsenal’s youngsters shine in minus 12 degrees

Emery decided to promote several youngsters to the first team, after making 10 changes to the side that beat Bournemouth in the Premier League last weekend, with only centre-back Rob Holding retaining his place.

Smith Rowe, 18, and Willock were deployed either side of 19-year-old Eddie Nketiah in a front three, and it didn’t take long for the fearless academy graduates to make an impact.

Arsenal took the lead in the 10th minute when the ball fell kindly to Smith Rowe inside the area following a deflection from a Vorskla defender.

The talented forward showed poise and composure to tuck the ball into the net, before Ramsey – in his final season for the club – dusted himself off after being bundled over inside the area to roll the ball past Bohdan Shust from the spot.

The Londoners continued to dominate the match, enjoying just under 60% of possession and limiting the hosts to only two shots on target – Petr Cech’s only real involvement in the bitter cold.

Willock added the gloss to an impressive first-half performance minutes before the interval with a finish of which club legend Thierry Henry would have been proud.

After being sprung clear by Mohamed Elneny’s through ball, Willock opened his body to bend the ball into the far corner.

Smith Rowe had the ball in the net for a second time, only for the goal to be disallowed for a dubious offside decision, but victory for the Gunners saw them extend their unbeaten run to 18 matches in all competitions.

Man of the match – Joe Willock (Arsenal)

Willock scored his first goal for the club in his first start for the senior side this season

Arsenal continue using Europa League to breed goalscorers – the stats

  • Joe Willock became the 21st different goalscorer for Arsenal in the Europa League since the start of last season.
  • Arsenal have won their first away game against Ukrainian opposition having drawn one and lost four of their previous five such matches.
  • Excluding qualifiers, Arsenal have kept three consecutive away clean sheets in European competition for the first time since a run of five en route to reaching the 2005-06 Champions League final.
  • Emile Smith Rowe has scored three goals in his past four appearances for Arsenal in all competitions.
  • Since the re-branding of the competition in 2009-10 no Arsenal player has scored (five) or been directly involved (six) in more Europa League goals than Aaron Ramsey.

What’s next?

Arsenal return to Premier League action as they host Tottenham in the north London derby on Sunday, 2 December at 14:05 GMT.

The Gunners will complete their Europa League Group E campaign against Qarabag at Emirates Stadium on Thursday, 13 December at 20:00 GMT.

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