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Bate Borisov 2 Arsenal 4
Two first-half goals from Theo Walcott eased Arsenal to their second win in Group H of the Europa League.
The England forward hasn’t started a Premier League game this season – and despite his brace, his lack of football showed when he squandered a couple of good opportunities in a tie dominated by the visitors.
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Walcott scored twice in the first quarter and when Rob Holding made it 3-0 at 25 minutes, it was effectively game over. Satisfying for Arsene Wenger, and just reward for putting his faith in fringe players such as defenders Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson, and midfielder Joseph Willock.
Nonetheless, for the neutral Arsenal’s early goals rather diluted the spectacle as a serious contest and even when Mirko Ivanic pulled one back for the Belarusians on the half-hour mark one sensed a comeback was never on the cards.
When Olivier Giroud – one of the few experienced players on show – scored his 100th Arsenal goal from the penalty spot in the second half, after Shkodran Mustafi was judged to have been fouled, it allowed the Gunners to ease up.
Wenger, who made nine changes overall to the side that beat West Brom on Monday, took advantage of the three-goal cushion to introduce a couple of teenagers – Marcus McGuane and Edward Nketiah – and not even another Bate goal could detract from the Frenchman’s pleasure.
“We had a good cohesion, we played football like we want to play it with good pace in our game,” said Wenger. “We maintained it for 65 minutes – the last 25 minutes were a bit more difficult. But overall I’m pleased with the performance.”
Wenger singled out Jack Wilshere for praise, describing the midfielder’s creativity as “outstanding” and adding: “I think he is on a good way back to his best and he showed that. He has only been stopped by a series of injuries. I just pray that he is not hampered any more by any problems, then you will see him getting stronger and stronger. He has shown again he has not lost his quality.”
In the other Europa League tie involving an English club, Everton were booed off the field at Goodison Park after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Cypriot minnows Apollon Limassol.
With Lyon drawing against Atalanta in the other pool tie, the Toffees are bottom of Group E after two games and manager Ronald Koeman couldn’t conceal his frustration with his players.
“The feeling is a defeat, not even a draw,” he said. “It is really disappointing… I cannot say they are not running or fighting, but they are scared to play forward.”
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