Eintracht Frankfurt vs Arsenal. UEFA Europa League Group F.
Report as Arsenal's young guns seal comprehensive win in Germany in Europa League Group F opener
Friday 20 September 2019 06:17, UK
Bukayo Saka scored one and set up two goals as Arsenal bounced back from their capitulation at Watford by kicking off their Europa League campaign with a commanding 3-0 victory over 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt.
Eighteen-year-old Saka laid on the opening goal for fellow academy graduate Joe Willock on 37 minutes, with the 20-year-old's deflected effort looping over Kevin Trapp and in off the crossbar.
And, after an inspired goalkeeping performance from Emiliano Martinez, Saka settled a frantic game in Arsenal's favour, curling a sumptuous effort into the bottom corner six minutes after Dominik Kohr was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang then got in on the act, slotting home after gathering Saka's through pass as Arsenal's bid to go one better than their defeat in last season's final got off to the perfect start.
Frankfurt: Trapp (7), Abraham (6), Hasebe (6), Hinteregger (7), Da Costa (6), Kamada (6), Kohr (5), Sow (6), Kostic (8), Silva (6), Dost (6).
Subs: Chandler (5), Paciencia (6).
Arsenal: Martinez (9), Chambers (6), Luiz (7), Mustafi (7), Kolasinac (6), Torreira (6), Xhaka (7), Willock (7), Smith Rowe (6), Saka (9), Aubameyang (7).
Subs: Maitland-Niles (6), Ceballos (5), Pepe (6).
Man of the Match: Bukayo Saka.
Eintracht last lost at home in Europe in 2006 and started brightly as they looked to extend that 16-game unbeaten, with Djibril Sow arrowing an early shot at Martinez, who was making his first Arsenal appearance since December.
But Arsenal would go on to create the best chances in a frenetic first half, the first of which saw Saka cross for the late-arriving Lucas Torreira, who fired high over from eight yards with the goal at his mercy.
The lively Filip Kostic tormented Calum Chambers and peppered the Arsenal defence, but Martinez was more than a match for the Serb's drive, before Willock and Emile Smith Rowe squandered glorious chances to give Arsenal the lead.
But the Gunners eventually converted one of their chances as Saka slipped Willock into space down the left, and he cut inside to release a shot that deflected off Eintracht captain David Abraham, over Trapp and into the back of the net via the woodwork.
Martinez preserved Arsenal's lead at the break with a fine stop to deny Andre Silva, while Bas Dost steered a free header wide within minutes of the restart as Frankfurt mounted a second-half rally.
Arsenal would almost immediately create a chance of their own as the end-to-end nature of the first period continued, but Martin Hinteregger's last-gasp challenge prevented Aubameyang from doubling the visitors' lead after Willock's neat through-ball.
Gunners captain Granit Xhaka came within inches of scoring a fortuitous second when Trapp misread the flight of his whipped free kick and watched it cannon against the crossbar.
Trapp kept Frankfurt in the game with saves to deny Willock and Saka, who was fouled by Kohr on 79 minutes, a challenge which yielded a second booking for the midfielder.
And Saka dusted himself to leave Frankfurt with a mountain to climb with a brilliant curler before Aubameyang put the icing on the cake with the Gunners third late on.
Arsenal have a number of promising talents on their hands, but this young man may just be the pick of the bunch. Martinez was superb in goal but Saka's youthful exuberance was a constant thorn in Frankfurt's side. His stunning first senior goal for the club will live long in the memory, as will the two assists he threw in for good measure.
Arsenal head coach Unai Emery on the performance of his young players: "Their performance tonight was good and they deserve it.
"Maybe with [Saka's] goal, with his performance, but also in the match taking confidence, finishing really strongly physically.
"And also with Emile [Smith Rowe], after his injury tonight he played for the first time this season and he worked well. Willock also, progressively he was feeling better and with a good performance."
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Charlie Nicholas: "There's a group of young players at Arsenal that trust each other and are comfortable in their own skin with each other. The manager has realised that he can use them. The boy Saka looks a special player to me. He could be a superstar.
"He wants to score goals and is upset when he doesn't, likes to assist, and there's a lot of really nice things about what he's got. But is he going to get in? This is the trouble. They've spent £70m on Nicolas Pepe, who hasn't done a lot so far. I'm tempted to give him 20-25 minutes and see how he gets on.
"There's a lot of really good ingredients at Arsenal, but we've seen this before, and then when it comes to the crux and the team is under pressure, the manager's retreat is to put the experience in."
Arsenal host Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday; kick-off 4.30pm. The Gunners resume their Europa League campaign against Standard Liege at the Emirates on October 3; kick-off 8pm. Eintracht, meanwhile, host Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga on Sunday; kick-off 5pm.