Tuesday 21 August 2018

Arsenal with one foot in the Europa League last 16 after stroll in Sweden

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring their third goal. Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring their third goal. Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Mark Mann-Bryans

Arsenal made light work of sub-zero temperatures and an artificial pitch to secure a comfortable Europa League victory over Ostersund.

The first leg of this Round-of-32 tie was played in Ostersund's Jamtkraft Arena, surrounded by snow drifts and furnished with an unfamiliar 4G surface - but a strong Arsenal side overcame trying conditions to win 3-0.

Arsene Wenger got out of the group stages by largely utilising his fringe players and young prospects but, now sitting eight points off the top four, winning the Europa League arguably presents the Gunners with their best shot of returning to the Champions League.

That explains why the likes of Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were included here and it was the former who rounded off a straightforward win after a Nacho Monreal effort and a Sotirios Papagiannopoulos own goal had set Arsenal on their way, with Ostersund missing a last-gasp penalty.

Ostersund - under Englishman Graham Potter - had not been able to get hold of the ball and when they did, they gifted Arsenal the best chance of the opening exchanges as goalkeeper Aly Keita passed out of his box to Papagiannopoulos.

The Sweden international dallied and was robbed by Ozil, who then burst through on goal with Keita blocking his path and Mkhitaryan's resulting shot being blocked behind.

Moments later and the visitors were in front, Alex Iwobi getting in a low shot which Keita could only shovel in the direction of the onrushing Monreal, who swept home his third goal in his last six appearances.

Mkhitaryan stung the palms of Keita as Arsenal continued to dominate, with the inevitable second coming at the midway point of the half.

Papagiannopoulos was the unwitting party, turning Mkhitaryan's driven cross into his own goal from close-range after Ostersund were again caught in possession inside their own box.

Potter's side finally broke into the Arsenal half but Abdulllhi Gero could only head tamely at David Ospina.

Ospina, the Arsenal captain for the night, was soon forced into more noteworthy action turning Saman Ghoddos' dipping effort over the crossbar as the hosts enjoyed a spell of pressure.

Ken Sema's well-struck free-kick was straight at Ospina, while Samuel Mensah fired a shot wide as Ostersund looked to get back into the game before the interval.

Arsenal took their time to build on their lead but were three goals to the good when Ozil exchanged passes with Mkhitaryan before turning a weak strike past Keita, who should have done better.

Ostersund were presented with a great chance to reduce the deficit in stoppage time after Hector Bellerin upended Tesfaldet Tekie in the box, only for Opsina to save Tom Petttersson's weak penalty.

Online Editors

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