SMART ALEX

Ad­van­tage Arse­nal for Europa fi­nal thanks to...

Daily Mail - - Sports Newspaper Of The Year - SAMI MOKBEL

ALEXAN­DRE LA­CAZETTE gunned down Va­len­cia last night as Arse­nal took a gi­ant step to­wards the Europa League fi­nal.

La­cazette’s brace and Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang’s late ef­fort put Unai Emery’s side in a strong po­si­tion, though Mouc­tar di­akhaby’s away goal gives Va­len­cia hope.

in Frank­furt, Pe­dro scored a pre­cious away goal for Chelsea as Mau­r­izio Sarri’s men se­cured a 1-1 draw in their first leg, set­ting up a po­ten­tial all-Lon­don fi­nal.

La­cazette said: ‘We want Cham­pi­ons

League so if we win (the Europa League) we go straight there.’ With Arse­nal’s hopes of qual­i­fy­ing for next sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League via the Premier League in the bal­ance, win­ning the Europa League now looks the club’s best chance of re­turn­ing to Euro­pean foot­ball’s top ta­ble. La­cazette added: ‘Of course, it is an­other tro­phy for this team. We want to go to the fi­nal in Baku. But we know it’s go­ing to be hard in their sta­dium. I had two good balls from my team, so thank you to them. We con­ceded the first goal and we knew they were good on set pieces — at this mo­ment we con­cede too many goal on set pieces. We need to be care­ful on this for sec­ond leg.’ Aubameyang be­lieves his late third goal could prove de­ci­sive in the tie, say­ing: ‘I hope it will be im­por­tant. We started not so good, but we had a good re­ac­tion and we played very well. ‘We started a bit ner­vously be­cause we’d lost our last three games, I think that’s nor­mal. ‘We are hu­man, but af­ter that we had a good re­ac­tion. We have a lot of qual­ity in this group and we can go to the fi­nal. It’s our tar­get to reach the fi­nal and win this tro­phy. ‘We know it’s an op­por­tu­nity to qual­ify for next year’s Cham­pi­ons League. We stopped in the semi-fi­nals last year but we have learned from last year’s er­rors and hope­fully this year we won’t do the same.’ Emery praised his team’s fight­ing spirit in hit­ting back af­ter Di­akhaby’s early goal. He said: ‘We wanted a good re­sult here, but achiev­ing it was dif­fi­cult. Af­ter the first goal, our re­sponse was very good. We took our chances and two goals in the first half gave us con­fi­dence. ‘We needed bet­ter con­trol. The sec­ond half was more nor­mal and the third goal was com­ing at the end, and was im­por­tant. ‘Gen­er­ally af­ter the first 90 min­utes we can be happy. With the same pas­sion, we now pre­pare for the sec­ond leg. It will be dif­fi­cult.’

Top Gun­ners: La­cazette cel­e­brates his lev­eller with Aubameyang (top) GETTY IM­AGES

Praise: Emery REX SHUTTERSTO­CK

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