BATE Borisov 2-4 Arsenal: Theo Walcott scores twice in victory
By Gerard Brand
Last Updated: 29/09/17 7:41am
Theo Walcott scored twice as Arsenal beat BATE Borisov 4-2 in an open encounter in their Europa League group-stage clash in Belarus.
Walcott's early double put the visitors in control, Rob Holding's close-range finish made it 3-0, but Mirko Ivanic pulled one back before the break for BATE.
Olivier Giroud regained the three-goal cushion with a penalty after half-time, but Mikhail Gordeichuk made it 4-2 with just over 20 minutes remaining from six yards.
BATE Borisov: Scherbitski (5), Rios (6), Gajduchik (5), Milunovic (5), Polyakov (5), Aleksandr Volodjko (6), Dragun (6), Gordeichuk (6), Ivanic (7), Stasevich (6), Rodionov (6)
Subs: Signevich (6), Maksim Volodjko (6), Baha (NA),
Arsenal: Ospina (7), Holding (7), Mertesacker (7), Mustafi (7), Willock (8), Elneny (7), Nelson (7), Maitland-Niles (7), Walcott (8), Wilshere (8), Giroud (7)
Subs: McGuane (NA), Nketiah (NA)
Man of the match: Jack Wilshere
The result means Arsenal are in control of Group H, sitting top with six points from two games, two points ahead of Red Star Belgrade.
Arsenal went close early on through Walcott, who hit the post via Jack Wilshere's deft through ball, but Walcott did score moments later, tapping home on the rebound after his initial header from Wilshere's superbly-worked cross was saved.
Arsenal talking points
Jack Wilshere, Reiss Nelson and Olivier Giroud feature in our talking points from Arsenal's win
An error from BATE goalkeeper Denis Shcherbitski handed Walcott his second, capitalising on a woeful clearance before drilling into the bottom left corner from 12 yards.
It was 3-0 within 25 minutes as Holding got his first Arsenal goal, turning into the net from close range after Walcott's corner was glanced on by Per Mertesacker.
As expected, Arsenal made a number of changes to the XI from their victory against West Brom on Monday. Mohamed Elneny and Shkodran Mustafi were the only players to retain their starting spots, with Ashley Maitland-Niles getting a chance. Olivier Giroud and Jack Wilshere also started while the bench was also full of youngsters.
BATE pulled one back three minutes later through Ivanic, who headed into the top right corner from the near post from Aleksey Rios' pacey cross.
Walcott was inches from a hat-trick before the break, forcing Shcherbitski into a superb fingertip save, before Holding hit the post from the resulting corner as BATE struggled to deal with Arsenal's set pieces.
It was 4-1 just after the break as Stanislav Dragun pulled the shirt of Shkodran Mustafi inside the box, with Giroud making no mistake from the penalty spot for his 100th Arsenal goal.
The sixth goal of the night fell to the hosts as Gordeichuk cleaned up from six yards after David Ospina had parried a close-range header, and moments later Aleksandr Volodko blazed over a clear chance from 12 yards out as Arsenal began to show fragility in the closing stages.
The manager - Arsene Wenger
"Wilshere had an outstanding first half. He fights until the end. He's on his way back to his best and showed that. He's at an age where a player normally gets to the best of his career. He's on the way up. He's only been stopped by a series of injuries.
"Hopefully, I just pray, he is not hampered by any more problems and that will see him getting stronger and stronger. He's shown again that he's not lost his football."
Man of the match - Jack Wilshere
Making his second start in just over a week, Wilshere reminded us all why Arsenal fans fell in love with him in the first place.
The midfielder's first thought was always to penetrate the BATE defence, and with a mix of balance and skill, the Belarusian side had no answer early on.
His assist for Walcott's second, a lovely piece of skill and cross from the left, summed Wilshere up, but can he stay fit and keep that form up enough to be considered in Premier League games?
- Arsene Wenger has now won against 116 of the 122 sides that he has faced as Arsenal manager.
- Arsenal have won eight of their last 10 European group stage games (D2), racking up 31 goals (avg 3.1 goals per game).
- The Gunners have scored 3+ goals in seven of those 10 games, including each of the last three.
- Olivier Giroud is the 12th fastest player to reach 100 goals for Arsenal; one game quicker than Robin van Persie.
Arsenal host Brighton at midday on Sunday in the Premier League, before going to Watford a fortnight later after international break. Their next Europa League game is in Belgrade against Red Star on October 19.