Monday, October 2, 2023

WIN! Arsenal secures first place in group of UEL

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It was 1-0 to The Arsenal on match-day six of the Europa League group stage, courtesy of a brilliant strike from Kieran Tierney. It was important win.

The result means the Gunners secure top spot and have two less games to worry about in an already-packed season.

Arsenal needed a win to guarantee top spot in their Europa League group and thus bypass the first knockout round and progress straight into the last-16.

Arteta made seven changes from the team that beat Nottingham Forest on the weekend, with Elneny returning after two months on the sidelines and Nelson starting in attack, following his brace on the weekend. Jesus was perhaps the surprise inclusion in the starting line-up, as he was given the chance to try and end a mini-drought in front of goal.

A frantic opening saw Arsenal struggle to get the ball down and play, with Zurich even finding space behind a stretched Gunners midfield and asked questions of the defence. But After a lacklustre first 10 minutes, Arsenal managed to calm the game down and started to gain more of a foothold.

And soon enough, Arsenal took the lead through Kieran Tierney. Some industrious play by Gabriel Jesus started an attack, which eventually led to Fabio Vieira shaping up to shoot, before his blocked effort fell to Tierney who rifled home from the edge of the box. 1-0 to The Arsenal, which was enough to win.

The Gunners had a golden chance on the half-hour mark as Eddie Nketiah appeared to have his shirt pulled in the box, but carried on playing and found Vieira, whose shot was blocked by his own man in Jesus, who was in an offside position.

Minutes later, Ramsdale was tested for the first time in the match after a deflected long-range effort threatened to find it’s way into the bottom corner. Then Arsenal went up the other end and won a corner, which found the head of Gabriel, who powered a header towards the roof of the net, but Brecher was equal to it.

Vieira should’ve scored on 40 minutes after some excellent play by Tierney, who was having himself a brilliant game, but the Portuguese midfielder couldn’t convert from close range.

Quite a funny moment just before half-time as Zurich midfielder Selnæs tried to juggle and chest the ball before clearing it from the byline, but a swing and a miss resulted in an Arsenal corner (which nothing came of).

Arsenal started the second half by winning a free-kick in Zurich territory, after Sambi Lokonga was barged from behind, which probably should’ve been a booking. The ball broke to Jesus, who was denied by the goalkeeper. The captain for the night couldn’t hide his frustration at not quite being able to score once again, as he buried his head into the padded pole behind the goal.

Tierney was in the thick of it once again in the 52nd minute when his shirt was pulled so vigorously that it ripped open, exposing his pectoral. A wolf whistle could be heard rising above the crowd noise…

Mikel Arteta made his first changes just after the hour mark, bringing on Thomas Partey and Bukayo Saka for Mohamed Elneny and Gabriel Jesus. In doing so, the manager presumably protected the fitness of the pair coming off and gave Saka some match minutes after he missed most of the game against Forest on the weekend.

With 25 minutes to go, Arsenal were given a wake-up call when Zurich had the ball in the back of the net from a rebound, after an initial save from Ramsdale. However, the flag went up straight away and the goal wouldn’t stand.

On 72 minutes, Arsenal made two more changes – bringing on Takehiro Tomiyasu and Martin Ødegaard replaced Ben White and Fabio Vieira.

As the match entered the latter stages, Arsenal continued to play a dangerous game with their precarious one goal lead. Partey fired a wayward cross-field pass out of play and Zurich nearly took advantage of the resulting attack as a long range effort whizzed over the bar.

Zurich would count themselves lucky not to have a man sent off after a brilliant Tierney header sent Reiss Nelson on his way, before he was sliced down by Katic, who was already on a booking.

Tomiyasu left the pitch only 15 minutes after coming on after he appeared to feel something in his right leg. Not a great sight for the Arsenal faithful and indeed the player, who has just been named in the Japan world cup squad. Cedric Soares was his replacement.

A nervy end to the game saw Zurich pile on the pressure in and around Arsenal’s penalty area. A last minute free-kick for the visitors saw Katic, the man who probably shouldn’t have been on the pitch, fire a header over the bar. The Gunners held on and got the job done in the end. It’s just the small matter of a London derby at Chelsea next for Arteta’s men. They need to win against Chelsea to stay on top. Not just because of that, but they need to win for the fans.

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