Vorskla Poltava 0-3 Arsenal: Joe Willock nets first Gunners goal as group win sealed
By Ron Walker
Last Updated: 29/11/18 11:52pm
Joe Willock scored his first Arsenal goal as they wrapped up Group E with a comfortable 3-0 win at Vorskla Poltava.
Emile Smith Rowe opened the scoring for the night when Artur's attempted clearance landed at his feet, leaving him a simple finish with goalkeeper Bogdan Shust off his line (10).
Aaron Ramsey put Arsenal in full control and heading for the win which would ensure they topped the group ahead of Sporting Lisbon when he spun on the ball in the area and was brought down by Ardin Dallku, before dispatching the resulting penalty impressively (27).
And Willock got in on the action shortly before half-time when he paced down the left before turning inside Dallku and curling low into the far corner with an exquisite finish (41).
Vorskla: Shust (6), Perduta (5), Dallku (4), Chesnakov (5), Artur (4), Sapai (4), Skliar (5), Sharpar (5), Rebenok (6), Kulach (6), Kolomoets (5).
Subs: Careca (5), Kane (5), Sakiv (n/a).
Arsenal: Cech (7), Lichtsteiner (7), Jenkinson (6), Holding (7), Maitland-Niles (7), Elneny (6), Ramsey (7), Guendouzi (6), Smith Rowe (8), Nketiah (7), Willock (8).
Subs: Medley (6), Saka (7) Gilmour (6)
Man of the match: Joe Willock
Arsenal were handed an early scare when Yury Kolomoets fired Pavel Rebenok's free-kick over the bar inside three minutes, but once the visitors got a hold on the game in the largely deserted Kiev Olympic Stadium, 200 miles from Vorskla's home ground, they never looked back.
Smith Rowe was rubbing his hands with glee when Eddie Nketiah's run into the box was halted by Artur, who should have left the ball for Shust to intercept, but instead the Brazilian's clearance couldn't have been better placed to set the Arsenal youngster up for an easy opener.
The lead was doubled when Smith Rowe was allowed to pace away down the left following some patient Arsenal build-up play, and when he fed Ramsey inside the box the Welshman proved too tricky for Dallku who caught his ankle.
He slowed his run-up to work out where Shust would dive and infuriated the Ukrainian international in doing so, but placed the ball perfectly to his left and the goalkeeper's protests to the referee afterwards fell on deaf ears.
It was three before half-time when Willock got the goal his performance had deserved, taking a ball from Mohamed Elneny in his stride before spotting a small space inside the Kosovo defender and placing the ball beautifully across Shust from 20 yards.
The second half was far less eventful but allowed Arsenal to blood in three debutants, Zech Medley, Charlie Gilmour and Bukayo Saka, and the latter in particular impressed during his cameo, coming close to scoring and also made another fine chance for Willock.
Arsenal kept only one player from Sunday’s win at Bournemouth in the starting line-up, with Rob Holding given the nod in defence.
It should have been four when Smith Rowe finished off again after some more shambolic defending, as Stephan Lichtsteiner's cross was left by both Vorskla centre-backs and Shust - but his goal was ruled out by an offside flag presumably against Nketiah, who had strayed ahead of the last man but not been involved in the move.
Vorskla gave Arsenal two slight worries over their clean sheet late on, but Petr Cech saved at the feet of Igor Perduta before substitute Nicolas Careca fired wide in the final moments.
Arsenal's three-point lead over second-placed Sporting Lisbon, who have also qualified, is now an unassailable one, with the Gunners guaranteed to finish top thanks to their superior head-to-head results.
- Arsenal will progress to the knockout stages of this seasons UEFA Europa League as group winners, extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 18 games (W14 D4) - the Gunners last went longer without defeat between August and November 2016 (19 games).
- Arsenal have won their first away game against Ukrainian opposition having drawn one and lost four of their previous five such matches.
- Excluding qualifiers, Arsenal have kept three consecutive away clean sheets in European competition for the first time since a run of five en route to reaching the 2005-06 Champions League final.
- Arsenal have failed to score in just one of their last 18 away games in all competitions, a 0-1 defeat to Atlético de Madrid in the second leg of last season's UEFA Europa League Semi-Final.
- Emile Smith-Rowe has scored three goals in his last four appearances for Arsenal in all competitions.
- Since the re-branding of the competition in 2009/10 no Arsenal player has scored (5) or been directly involved (6) in more Europa League goals than Aaron Ramsey.
- Joe Willock became the 21st different goalscorer for Arsenal in the Europa League since the start of last season.
Man of the match - Joe Willock
Willock was exceptional, fully deserving his first goal for Arsenal and could have had more, registering three shots on target overall.
He was happy to help build the play too, and also do the dirty work young players can often be criticised for lacking - he made three tackles, more than anyone else on his side.
Arsenal have the north London derby to contend with on Sunday, with Spurs visiting the Emirates live on Sky Sports Premier League from 2pm.