But Unai’s men could have put tie to bed

Daily Mail - - Europa League - MARTIN SA­MUEL Chief Sports Writer

Alexan­dre la­cazette had two, but should have had four. So arse­nal won the tie, but can­not yet start plan­ning for the fi­nal in Baku. not quite.

The goal in the fi­nal minute of nor­mal time for Pierre-em­er­ick aubameyang changed the com­plex­ion some­what, but can arse­nal be trusted not to con­cede twice in Spain? It isn’t ex­actly one to sling the mort­gage on.

So it was a good win, but not one that will be im­pos­si­ble to over­turn if arse­nal de­fend like this again. They will need to be tighter in Va­len­cia, and sharper in front of goal, too. Had la­cazette taken his chances, had arse­nal’s back line been alert to the dan­gers of Marcelino’s team, the tie would have been as good as re­solved in the home leg.

Unai emery’s cel­e­bra­tion of the third goal sug­gested a man who thought it would be enough, but bet­ter de­fences than this have proved vul­ner­a­ble un­der the pres­sure of a semi-fi­nal.

‘To­gether to Baku’ is UeFa’s slo­gan for this un­der­card com­pe­ti­tion. arse­nal will need to be if they are to make the journey.

The third of the night was big, though, have no doubt of that. Sead Ko­lasinac played the ball deep to the far post and aubameyang met it on the vol­ley. It looked a mis­kick, but it did the trick, creep­ing in low by the feet of goal­keeper neto, who was deeply unim­pres­sive all night.

Yet had that been arse­nal’s fourth or fifth, we would now be talk­ing of the tie be­ing over. This still feels like half-time.

So while la­cazette was the hero of the night, he was its prob­lem child, too. In the space of four sec­ond-half min­utes he spurned the op­por­tu­ni­ties that would have taken the tie away from Va­len­cia. What should have been la­cazette’s hat-trick goal came in the 63rd minute. aubameyang suc­ceeded with some de­light­ful trick­ery on the flank and hit a lovely cross for la­cazette to

con­vert. It was per­fectly teed up but the striker took his eye off the ball and end­ing up miss­ing it com­pletely.

From the next at­tack, Granit xhaka forced a save from neto, which he prod­ded tamely out to la­cazette. In a su­perb po­si­tion, he had two stabs at it. The first forced an­other neto save, the sec­ond was blocked by for­mer arse­nal man Gabriel. ei­ther should have been a goal.

The po­ten­tial con­se­quences were felt im­me­di­ately. at the op­po­site end, six min­utes later, lau­rent Ko­scielny fell asleep and let in sub­sti­tute for­ward Kevin Gameiro. Cech was swiftly out and saved at his feet, but the warn­ing was there.

When the club em­ployed a man­ager called emery, they must have ex­pected a few cheap gags about co­me­di­ans if things went wrong. What they can’t have an­tic­i­pated is that it would be the club’s own de­fend­ers who would be pro­vid­ing feed lines. af­ter three goals con­ceded in three con­sec­u­tive games, one might at least have ex­pected arse­nal to be drilled to keep it tight. In­stead, they were a goal down af­ter 10 min­utes and could have trailed by three af­ter 15. What do they do in train­ing?

There were just nine min­utes gone when arse­nal were caught cold by a free-kick from daniel Parejo as ro­drigo volleyed it back across the six-yard box.

This was only tem­po­rary respite, though. Two min­utes later, Va­len­cia took the lead from a set-piece that re­flected poorly on just about ev­ery mem­ber of arse­nal’s back line, in­clud­ing Cech. again, Parejo was the provider, find­ing ro­drigo at the far post, un­suc­cess­fully mar­shalled by Ko­lasinac.

He headed it back across goal, where Mouc­tar di­akhaby waited, guarded by a fur­ther three arse­nal de­fend­ers, plus Cech. now di­akhaby is a huge chap, yet there are plenty of big men out there, and de­fend­ers deal with them all the time. One of arse­nal’s men should have been a match for di­akhaby. In­stead, he nod­ded the ball into the net as if sur­rounded by tod­dlers.

From Va­len­cia’s next at­tack, Parejo tried a shot from 20 yards that Cech par­ried poorly, push­ing the ball out rather than into a wide area.

For­tu­nately, ains­ley Mait­land­niles was on hand to mop up. Un­for­tu­nately, he tried to do so through the medium of jazz dance, con­tort­ing his body strangely, drop­ping to his knees, and at­tempt­ing a semi- div­ing header which had lit­tle on its side bar mys­tery. He di­rected it poorly, too, and Goncalo Guedes al­most cap­i­talised, turn­ing his shot over, as star­tled as any­one else by de­vel­op­ments.

It was a swift, in­tel­li­gent break that got arse­nal back into the game, la­cazette feed­ing aubameyang, who sped clear of a slug­gish back line, draw­ing neto as he did. It was a poor de­ci­sion by the goal­keeper. In com­ing out, he made aubameyang’s next move ob­vi­ous, and left his goal ut­terly un­pro­tected.

Sure enough, aubameyang squared to la­cazette, who had con­tin­ued his sup­port­ing run, and the French­man slot­ted the ball into the empty net.

This warded off a fan mutiny, and seven min­utes later they were cel­e­brat­ing with even greater gusto.

again, Va­len­cia came up short at the back, neto most of all. The ball came in from xhaka on the left, la­cazette lost his man far too eas­ily and was given a free header. He steered it down into the turf, a smart move — but neto should have done bet­ter.

He palmed the ball on to a post and it re­bounded over the line be­fore he had a chance to claw clear. Tech­nol­ogy con­firmed the

good news, al­though why the as­sis­tant on the by-line couldn’t have done that with the naked eye is puz­zling. It was mas­sively over, and he must have seen it. If he didn’t, what is he do­ing there? Buy a ticket and sit in the stand if you just want to watch the game.


Ice cold Alex: La­cazette coolly sweeps in his first (above), then heads home to make it 2-1

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