Sports

Lacazette 10/10 as Arsenal cruise into the Europa League semis

Arsenal cruised into the Europa League semifinals with a remarkable 4-0 win against Slavia Prague in the Czech capital.

The clinical Gunners took the lead when Nicolas Pepe blasted in from close range after Emile Smith Rowe’s tap-in had earlier been chalked off by VAR. Within just six minutes 1-0 became 3-0 as Alexandre Lacazette stroked home from the penalty spot before Bukayo Saka’s fine finish effectively finished the tie with just 24 minutes in the clock.

Lacazette later helped himself to a second with a composed finish in the 77th minute to cap a fine victory for Mikel Arteta’s side, who will now play Villarreal and former boss Unai Emery in the semifinals.

Positives

It was a night that required a professional display and Arsenal delivered one, but they were emphatic too, and once Arteta’s men found their groove there was no stopping them as they blew their opponents away to book a semifinal place in style.

Negatives

The Gunners were without Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang after the Gabon international contracted malaria while on international duty, so best wishes to him. The visitors also took their foot off the gas after the break, but it was already job done.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — If you can find any criticism of that Arsenal performance feel free to point it out to me. It was a fantastic effort from Gunners who are now just three games away from silverware and securing an all-important Champions League place.

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Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Bernd Leno, 6 — Minus one punched clearance he didn’t have a single save to make in a contest where the hosts were expected to bring the fight to Arsenal, but instead failed to register a single shot on target.

DF Calum Chambers, 7 — Almost set up an Arsenal goal with a teasing cross from the right that was desperately close to picking out Emile Smith Rowe. Continued to enjoy attacking success on the right as the Slavia forwards failed to pin him back.

DF Rob Holding, 7 — Stuck to his guns well to hold off a first Slavia attack on the break before the Gunners won a free-kick to relieve the pressure. Beyond that, he was rarely called upon.

DF Pablo Mari, 6 — Like Holding, he won a couple of important challenges but he was never really out of his depth on a night that was as quiet as any he’ll ever have.

DF Granit Xhaka, 7 — Once again deployed at left-back in the absence of Kieran Tierney, he produced a battling yet disciplined performance as his side recorded a well-deserved clean sheet.

MF Dani Ceballos, 7 — Nothing out of the ordinary this time around following Sunday’s exquisite assist, although his reaction to a slight shove from Peter Olayinka was a little overzealous. A comfortable night’s work and he tidied up anything that broke loose in the middle.

MF Thomas Partey, 7 — Provided plenty of protection for the back four. Fortunate to avoid a booking when he wiped out Lukas Provod on the break, but he applied himself much better to block Nicolae Stanciu’s clean strike late in the first half.

MF Bukayo Saka, 9 — Switched to the right-hand side from his preferred left but boy did he relish it. He was inches away from a spectacular opener when he cut in and unleashed a pile driver that stung the post, but another charging run moments later drew the foul that allowed Lacazette to double his side’s advantage. To cap his night, he grabbed a deserved goal to put the game to bed.

MF Emile Smith Rowe, 8 — No Aubameyang, no Gabriel Martinelli, but it looked like no problem for the exuberant midfielder who was on hand to bundle home after Saka’s superb strike hit the woodwork, only for VAR to intervene. Another excellent display nonetheless.

MF Nicolas Pepe, 9 — Virtually unplayable. The winger looked in the mood from the first whistle and helped produce some immediate pressure his manager will have been looking for when his squeezed pass was turned behind for an early corner. His next chance ended up in the roof of the net after another penetrating burst forward.

FW Alexandre Lacazette, 10 — You just can’t stop this man from scoring at the moment. You’d always fancy the France international from 12 yards, but his cool head was exactly what was needed on what threatened to be a cagey night before kick-off. Scored Arsenal’s fourth in the second half for a richly deserved brace.

Substitutes

DF Cedric Soares, N/R — Replaced Thomas Partey in the 79th minute with the midfielder saved for another day.

MF Mohamed Elneny, 6 — Came on for Smith Rowe in the 67th minute with the impressive midfielder unsurprisingly treated to a well-earned rest.

MF Eddie Nketiah, N/R — Part of a triple change for the final 10 minutes or so.

FW Gabriel Martinelli, N/R — On for the closing stages and nearly made it five, but he placed his effort just beyond the far post after an eye-catching run that had Slavia defenders scampering.

FW Folarin Balogun, N/R — Made a late cameo appearance after signing a contract extension this week.

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