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Molde vs Arsenal. UEFA Europa League Group B.

Aker StadionAttendance600.

Molde 0

    Arsenal 3

    • N Pepe (50th minute)
    • R Nelson (55th minute)
    • F Balogun (83rd minute)

    Molde 0-3 Arsenal: Nicolas Pepe redeems himself as Gunners qualify for Europa League knockout phase

    Report as Nicolas Pepe repaid Mikel Arteta's faith by scoring the opening goal in Norway; Reiss Nelson and 19-year-old Folarin Balogun also score to ensure Arsenal reach knockout stages with two games to spare

    Nicolas Pepe curled home Arsenal's opener
    Image: Nicolas Pepe curled home Arsenal's opener in their 3-0 win over Molde

    Arsenal qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League after beating Molde 3-0 with Nicolas Pepe redeeming himself after his Elland Road red card.

    Pepe, whose headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski on Sunday was called "unacceptable" by his manager Mikel Arteta, was given an immediate chance to make up for his misdemeanour by starting in Norway and opened the scoring with a fine curling effort (50).

    Reiss Nelson was on hand to hammer home from close range (55) before substitute 19-year-old Folarin Balogun netted his first goal from the club having been on the pitch for just 37 seconds (83).

    The 3-0 victory maintained their 100 per cent start to Group B.

    Player ratings

    Arsenal: Runarsson (7), Cedric (6), David Luiz (7), Mustafi (7), Maitland-Niles (7), Willock (7), Xhaka (7), Nelson (7), Pepe (8), Nketiah (6), Lacazette (6)

    Subs used: Holding (6), Balogun (7), Smith Rowe (6)

    Man of the match: Nicolas Pepe

    How Arsenal sealed Europa League progression

    Arsenal started with plenty of tempo and adventure with at times the wide men making it a front four.

    They dominated the early territorial battle but it was the hosts that created the most dangerous opening when Magnus Eikrem half-volleyed a quite brilliant ball across the face of goal for centre-back Sheriff Sinyan at the far post but he side-footed it back across goal and Alex Runarsson made a save.

    Team news

    Mikel Arteta made eight changes from the draw at Leeds - but Nicolas Pepe wasn't one of them despite seeing red at Elland Road. Arteta decided to switch to a four at the back and played both Eddie Nketiah and Alexander Lacazette up top.

    The Gunners won six corners in the first half but didn't make the most of their territory as Andreas Linde was largely untested in the Molde goal. Pepe moved well off the right-wing on 21 minutes but blazed an effort wide before Nelson did the same from the other wing on 40 minutes.

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    Arsenal needed to be quicker in transitions after the break and came out with a renewed vigour. Pepe cut in from the left in typical fashion on 48 minutes but his fantastic strike from 25 yards came crashing back off the underside of the crossbar. He wouldn't have to wait long for his moment of redemption though. Just two minutes later he found space in the box and confidently curled a finish into the corner.

    That opened the floodgates for Arsenal in the final third. Eddie Nketiah had a goal chalked off for a marginal offside on 52 minutes before Nelson did double the lead moments later. Joe Willock provided the width down the right and his cross was thumped home from close range by Nelson.

    Reiss Nelson (r) scored Arsenal's second of the night
    Image: Reiss Nelson (r) scored Arsenal's second of the night

    Nketiah really should have got his name on the scoresheet but he somehow managed to divert a header from six yards out over the crossbar following another brilliant delivery from the right, this time from Pepe.

    With Arsenal easing to victory, Arteta handed some first-team minutes to youngsters Emile Smith Rowe and Balogun, who is highly rated by the manager but is also out of contract at the end of the season.

    The pair showed their potential by linking up to brilliant effect to make it 3-0. Smith Rowe ghosted into the box down the left and found the striker, who turned quickly before firing a low effort home. It was just 37 seconds between Balogun entering the field and finding the net.

    Man of the match: Nicolas Pepe

    Nicolas Pepe scored Arsenal's first goal
    Image: Nicolas Pepe scored Arsenal's first goal

    All eyes were on the club's record signing. What would his reaction be like following his moment of madness on Sunday? Would he sulk under the spotlight of negativity or grab the game by the scruff of the neck? Thankfully for Arsenal it was the latter as he was in positive mood off the right flank, hitting the crossbar with a stunning effort before tucking away the all-important opener.

    What the manager said

    Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta on Pepe's performance: "Yes I am really pleased. After the disappointment you want to see something stand-out really quickly and I could see from the first minute his body language that he was ready to act. I think he had a great performance. He scored a goal. He could have scored another one or two, created some great moments in the game and worked really hard for the team. I really liked it and I'm so pleased for that."

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    Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta praised the way Nicolas Pepe bounced back from his red card against Leeds with a strong performance in the win over Molde.

    Opta stats

    • Arsenal have won their opening four group stage matches in a European campaign for the first time since the 2005-06 season, in the UEFA Champions League, going on to reach the final of the competition that campaign.
    • Since beating Sheffield United 2-1 at the start of October, 12 of Arsenal's 13 goals in all competitions have come in the UEFA Europa League, with the only exception being Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's penalty at Old Trafford in the Premier League.
    • Pepe has been directly involved in nine goals in his 10 UEFA Europa League games for Arsenal (5 goals & 4 assists), netting in each of his last three appearances in the competition.
    • Balogun scored with his first ever attempt for Arsenal's senior team.
    • Since the start of last season, only Pépé (9) and Bukayo Saka (8) have been involved in more UEFA Europa League goals for Arsenal than Willock (7 - 4 goals & 3 assists).
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