Fans returned to the Emirates for the first time since March as Arsenal secured top spot in their group with a comfortable 4-1 victory over a poor Rapid Vienna side.
Alexandre Lacazette gave Arsenal the lead inside the opening ten minutes with a vicious swerving effort, surprising both the goalkeeper and myself in equal measure!
Pablo Mari’s header from a corner ensured the hosts, playing in their changed kit tonight, were almost guaranteed their first-place group finish – which only required a point from this game – and Eddie Nketiah bundled home a third before half time.
Koya Kitigawa pulled one back for the visitors at the very start of the second half but Emile Smith Rowe restored the Gunners’ three goal advantage as the London side romped to a comfortable win, their fifth from five Europa League games.
After Shkodran Mustafi shanked an effort well wide of the near post, Lacazette picked up the ball from a ricochet in the middle of the park and smashed in an effort from 30 yards, swerving past Richard Strebinger.
And the game got even better for the hosts when Mari capped a return from the injury he picked up in the first game since the first lockdown – heading in from a corner.
The game was settled before half time as Nketiah managed to head in the rebound after his own effort was well saved as Arsenal worked a wonderful team move with one touch passes from Lacazette and Reiss Nelson in the build up.
Kitigawa scored for the visitors within two minutes of the start of the half – two saves on the line from Sead Kolasinac were not enough to prevent the ball being fired back through the crowd by the Japanese attacker.
But moments after Pepe’s cross to Nketiah fell agonisingly too far forward for the youngster to tap in, substitute Smith Rowe scored Arsenal’s fourth, tapping into an empty net from Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s path.
The rest of the game was played out in a rather languid fashion as Arsenal played like the Jekyll to the Hyde they’ve been in the Premier League. Maybe Hyde United would be better in the derby on Sunday…
Man of the match: The fans. They’ve followed Arsenal over land and sea, and COVID!
Arsenal: Runarsson, Cedric, Mustafi (Chambers 70′), Mari, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Nelson (Willian 63′), Elneny (Ceballos 63′), Pepe, Nketiah (Balogun 81′), Lacazette (Smith Rowe 63′)
Subs not used: Leno, Macey, Tierney, Saka, Holding, Willock, Balogun, Azeez
Rapid Vienna: Strebinger, Sonnleitner, Hofmann (Barac HT), Greiml, Ullmann (Schick HT), Ritzmaier (Knasmullner 66′), Schuster, Demir, Arase, Alar (Sulzbacher 78′), Kitagawa (Kara 65′)
Subs not used: Gartler, Hedl, Grahovac, Stojkovic, Ibrahimoglu