Europa League: 11 wins in a row for Arsenal, Loftus-Cheek scores Chelsea hat-trick
Premier League clubs top their groups with England players scoring all the goals
Sporting Lisbon 0 Arsenal 1
Arsenal stretched their winning streak to 11 matches in all competitions as they saw off Sporting Lisbon in Portugal.
Danny Welbeck scored the only goal of the Europa League clash to consolidate Arsenal’s position at the top of group E.
With a 100% record from their three matches, Arsenal are three points clear of Sporting, while Vorskla Poltava are on three points after beating Qarabag last night in the other group game.
It was a dour encounter in Portugal with Arsenal looking jaded in the first period, no surprise given that only three days earlier they had come from behind to beat Leicester City in a pulsating match in the Premier League.
Fortunately for the Gunners, Sporting had little to offer by way of attacking threat with Nani's long-range effort the only time they threatened to score in a forgettable first half. There was a slight improvement in entertainment after the break, but the only goal of the night came on 77 minutes when Welbeck seized on an error by Sebastian Coates and fired the ball into the Sporting net.
It was Sporting's first home defeat since losing to Barcelona 12 months ago, and the win takes Arsenal ever closer to beating their club record of 14 consecutive victories, a run established at the start of the 1987-88 season.
One match at a time
“We are only thinking of the next match against Crystal Palace [on Sunday],” said Arsenal manager Unai Emery, in response to a question about breaking the record. “We are also enjoying each moment with our supporters. For us, it's very important that supporters are with us and enjoy it.”
Asked where there is room for improvement in his squad, Emery replied: “We need to continue finding the solution for us to be better in the first halves.”
Chelsea 3 BATE Borisov 1
Chelsea are also in a commanding position in their Europa League group after a cruise-control win against Belarusian champions BATE Borisov. The star of the Stamford Bridge show was Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who scored all his side’s goals in the 3-1 win, and in doing so became the first English player to score a hat-trick in the Europa League since Tottenham’s Harry Kane four years ago.
Six points clear
The victory lifts Chelsea to nine points, six clear of their rivals in group L, and qualification for the last 32 of the competition will be assured if they beat BATE Borisov away next month.
Loftus-Cheek opened his account in the second minute, latching on to Davide Zappacosta’s low cross, and the 22-year-old got his second six minutes later when he volleyed home Willian’s corner. The England midfielder then scored his first competitive hat-trick shortly after the break with a sweet 20-yard shot before Aleksei Rios scored for the visitors late on.
“It feels really good,” said Loftus-Cheek of his exploits. “I walked into the dressing room and the players gave me a round of applause and a cheer.”
RB Leipzig 2 Celtic 0
RB Leipzig inflicted yet more European misery on the Scottish champions with a 2-0 victory in Germany. The defeat leaves Celtic third in group B, three points behind Leipzig (who they play in Glasgow on 8 November) and six shy of RB Salzburg, who thrashed Rosenborg 3-0. “If we’re going to have any aspirations of coming out of the group then it’s a game we have to win,” said Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers of next month’s return fixture. “I’ve seen enough to know we can win at home.”