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Arsenal vs Qarabag FK. Europa League Group E.

Emirates StadiumAttendance58,101.

Arsenal 1

  • A Lacazette (16th minute)

Qarabag FK 0

    Arsenal 1-0 Qarabag FK: Alexandre Lacazette's strike settles Europa League clash

    Unai Emery's men advance to the last 32 of the Europa League after narrow victory


    An early goal from Alexandre Lacazette was enough to earn a youthful Arsenal side a 1-0 victory over Qarabag FK in a low-key Europa League clash at the Emirates.

    Eyebrows were raised ahead of kick-off when Unai Emery started the Frenchman in a game with little meaning, but the striker justified his inclusion when he scored in the 16th minute.

    Academy prospect Bukayo Sako, 17, spurned a handful of chances to become the club's youngest European goalscorer on his full debut, while Eddie Nketiah saw a late header chalked off with the linesman's flag raised.

    Player ratings

    Arsenal: Martinez (5), Jenkinson (6), Sokratis (6), Koscielny (6), Maitland-Niles (5), Elneny (6), Willock (6), Nketiah (7), Ozil (6), Saka (7), Lacazette (7)

    Subs: Medley (5), Monreal (n/a), Gilmour (n/a)

    Qarabag FK: Vagner (6), Medvedev (6), Rzezniczak (6), Sadygov (5), Huseynov (5), Guerrier (7), Slavchev (5), Garayev (5), Michel (5), Madatov (5), Zoubir (5)

    Subs: Abdullayev (4), Quintana (n/a), Ozobic (n/a)

    Man of the match: Bukayo Saka

    With Sporting Lisbon beating Vorskla Poltava 3-0, the Group E table remained the same, with the Gunners advancing to the last 32 as winners, while Azerbaijan's Qarabag finished fourth with three points from six games.

    With the hosts having secured top spot last month, there was little riding on the final fixture of the group stage, allowing Emery to select a young team, in anticipation of the Super Sunday clash with Southampton.

    Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal scores the opening goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League Group E match between Arsenal and Qarabag FK at Emirates Stadium on December 13, 2018 in London, United Kingdom
    Image: Alexandre Lacazette scores the winner for Arsenal against Qarabag

    From the off the Gunners dominated the ball on a crisp north London evening, with the first chance falling to 17-year-old Bukayo Saka - making his full debut - who saw his 20-yard effort beaten away by Qarabag 'keeper Vagner.

    It took just 16 minutes for the hosts to find the opener, though. Nketiah's pressure forced Simeon Slavchev to turn over possession, allowing Mesut Ozil to feed Lacazette, who buried a shot into the far corner.

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    Although the visitors' attacking threat was minimal, they had the chance to square up proceedings just past the hour when Araz Abdullayev was picked out in the 18-yard box by Abdellah Zoubir, but he fluffed his lines just moments after his introduction.

    Team news

    Just Sokratis and Alexandre Lacazette kept their places in the Arsenal team following the 1-0 win over Huddersfield at the weekend, but there was a welcome return to the starting line-up for Laurent Koscielny following an Achilles injury sustained in the Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid in May.

    Mesut Ozil also started for Unai Emery's men, while 17-year-old Bukayo Saka made his full debut for the club; Emiliano Martinez started his first game in 20 months.

    Saka grew in stature as the game wore on and he missed numerous chances - notably when one-on-one with Vagner - before his clever cross was glanced home by Nketiah, though it was swiftly disallowed.

    Arsenal continued to pose something of a threat in the dying minutes, and although they could not add to their advantage, the narrow win sees their unbeaten run stretch to 22 games - their longest unbeaten run in over 11 years.

    Man of the match - Bukayo Saka

    It is quite clear to see why this 17-year-old is so highly-rated at the Emirates, based on this showing. Saka looked confident on the ball on his full debut and did not look out of place in Emery's side.

    He was a creative force on the left, but also had chances of his own and was quite unfortunate to come away from the game without a goal. A regular first-team berth seems unlikely at this stage, but the Europa League should prove the ideal platform for Saka to gain senior football experience.

    Opta facts

    Arsenal are unbeaten in 22 games in all competitions (W17 D5 L0) last losing against Chelsea back in August - the Gunners longest unbeaten run since November 2007 (a club record 28 games).

    Unai Emery has lost just one of his 24 UEFA Europa League group games in charge of Valencia, Sevilla and Arsenal combined (W14 D9) and is unbeaten in the competition group stages since his Sevilla side were beaten 0-2 against Feyenoord back in November 2011 (P7 W6 D1 L0 since).

    Arsenal have gone five Europa League games without conceding a goal since MD1 against Vorskla Poltava - excluding qualifiers, the Gunners last went on a longer run of consecutive clean sheets in European competition during the 2005/06 campaign, keeping 10 straight shut outs on their way to the Champions League final.

    Image: Laurent Koscielny made his return from an Achilles injury sustained in last season's Europa League semi-final

    FK Qarabag have lost all six of their meetings with English sides in all competitions, by an aggregate score of 1-18.

    FK Qarabag have lost seven of their last eight games in the UEFA Europa League (W1).

    Mesut Ozil created four chances in this game for the Gunners - no Arsenal player has created more in a single Europa League game this campaign.

    preview image 0:39
    Unai Emery said Laurent Koscielny’s return to the Arsenal side was another step in the Frenchman’s recovery

    Laurent Koscielny made his first competitive start for Arsenal since last season's UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg against Atletico de Madrid, 224 days ago.

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    What's next?

    Next up for the Gunners is a trip to the south coast to face struggling Southampton in Ralph Hasenhuttl's St Mary's bow this Super Sunday. The build-up gets underway at 12.30pm on Sky Sports Premier League, with kick-off an hour later.

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