Europa League round-up: Arsenal, Chelsea and Rangers win to top their groups
Teenager Emile Smith Rowe scores in Arsenal’s 3-0 victory against Qarabag
Qarabag 0 Arsenal 3: teenager Smith Rowe stars
Emile Smith Rowe last night became the youngest player to score for Arsenal in a competitive match since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in 2011, as the Gunners cruised past Qarabag in Azerbaijan.
The 3-0 victory puts Unai Emery’s side in control of Europa League group E, and marks their eighth consecutive win in all competitions.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos had given Arsenal the lead after just four minutes, before Smith Rowe doubled the visitors’ advantage early in the second half.
Running onto Alex Iwobi’s pass, the teenager kept his composure and drilled the ball past Qarabag goalkeeper Vagner. For a player who turned 18 only 67 days ago, it was an impressive finish, as was the subsequent goal from 19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi, who in scoring the third also opened his Arsenal account.
Smith Rowe in dreamland
“It’s just a dream come true really!” Smith Rowe told the Arsenal website. “I feel at home in this team. I train with them every day and everyone’s so welcoming. I’m just happy to be here.”
The victory puts Arsenal top of their group on points difference, ahead of Sporting, who won 2-1 away at FC Vorskla Poltava.
Arsenal’s win in Azerbaijan was hard fought, and the visitors were indebted to a sharp display from Bernd Leno.
The German goalkeeper made some good saves in both halves as Qarabag attempted a comeback, but Arsenal were too strong as they extended their winning streak to eight matches, their longest 100% run since April 2015.
“The victory is good for our confidence, for our mentality, and it helps us grind out results in difficult matches, to keep our idea to continue to push, to make the counter with the ball,” Emery said after the match. “I think the team learned to suffer and then show our quality in our moments with our individual quality.”
As for Smith Rowe, Emery said that what has impressed him most about the youngster in recent months is his attitude. “He is humble to listen every day in training,” the Gunners boss added. “I think it’s best for him to continue to be humble and continue working in every match to keep his feet on the ground.”
Chelsea 1 MOL Vidi 0: no breeze for the Blues
Chelsea emulated Arsenal and made it two wins from two in the Europa League, but there was little to cheer the Stamford Bridge faithful as their side went up against Hungarian champions MOL Vidi.
Goalless at the break, it was only when Eden Hazard appeared off the bench in the second half that Chelsea started to ask questions of their visitors.
The winning goal eventually came on 70 minutes, with Alvaro Morata finishing a move that involved some slick assists from Willian and Cesc Fabregas.
It was Morata’s first goal for Chelsea in nine games, and his manager recognised its significance, both for the team and the player.
“It’s very important for him to score,” said Blues boss Maurizio Sarri. “I think Alvaro can restart from this performance.”
Sarri was honest in his assessment of Chelsea’s performance, telling reporters: “I don’t think we played well, we have done a good offensive phase and had a lot of ball opportunities. But we conceded too much. We have to play every three days, it is very difficult and so we have to have a great mentality. There is a risk to arrive at a match without the mental power and energy.”
Mixed results for Scottish clubs
After drawing 2-2 away at Villarreal in their group G opening match, Rangers followed up that result with a superb 3-1 win against Rapid Vienna at Ibrox last night. Steven Gerrard’s team now top the group, one point clear of Rapid.
Celtic were the only British team to lose on matchday two. The Scottish champions were beaten 3-1 by Red Bull Salzburg, a defeat that leaves them third in Europa League group B.
Matchday three fixtures
The next Europa League group stage games will take place on Thursday 25 October. Here’s who the four British sides will play next:
- Group B: RB Leipzig vs. Celtic (5.55pm)
- Group E: Sporting Lisbon vs. Arsenal (5.55pm)
- Group G: Rangers vs. Spartak Moscow (8pm)
- Group L: Chelsea vs. BATE Borisov (8pm)