Arsenal take on Molde in a top of the group Europa League clash in Norway on Thursday evening, hoping to seal qualification for the knockout stages with a victory.
The Gunners have identified this game as an opportunity to blood some new youngsters into the first team, with Miguel Azeez and Ben Cottrell receiving their first competitive call ups having impressed for the u23s this season. Emile Smith Rowe and Folarin Balogun have also made the travelling squad and will both be eager to get some minutes at the Aker Stadion.
Molde get us underway at the Aker Stadion following a period of silence for the late, great Diego Maradona.Embed from Getty Images
1 min: Arsenal look to be lining up in a 4-2-3-1 system with Alexandre Lacazette occupying the No.10 role. An interesting change of position for Arsenal’s captain on the night.
3 mins: Reiss Nelson gets to the byline and lays the ball back to Ainsley Maitland-Niles who floats a cross towards the back post which the keeper decides to tip over the bar for a corner. It looked to have been heading in, so Andreas Linde wasn’t taking any risks there.
12 mins: Pepe blazes a wild volley well over the bar after Shkodran Mustafi’s looping flick-on falls to him at the back post.
13 mins: Nelson plays a neat one-two with Lacazette coming in from the left-hand side to create a good shooting opportunity but his effort on goal lacks conviction and is easily saved by Linde at his near post. Encouraging link-up play from the visitors.
15 mins: Unbelievable miss. How have Molde not taken the lead there? It looked harder to miss than score. Eirik Hestad fizzes the ball across the face of goal, and all Sheriff Sinyan has to do is tap home into an empty net but he somehow manages to slice it back across goal and safely into Runar Alex Runarsson’s hands. You can certainly tell that Sinyan is a defender. Huge let off for the Gunners.
17 mins: Pepe’s had a couple of bright moments in these last few minutes, going on a mazy dribble and having a pop at goal from the edge of the box which was comfortably caught by Linde. Arsenal appear to be growing in momentum.
21 mins: Pepe goes on a driving run down the right-hand side following a quick counter attack, cuts inside onto his favoured left foot but sees his curling effort go just wide of the post. He did everything right but hit the target there and was unlucky not to find the top corner. The Ivorian looks determined to prove a point tonight.
26 mins: Sinyan makes a terrific last ditch sliding tackle to thwart Eddie Nketiah who looked to be in on goal. A very important intervention from the Gambian defender to go some way towards resurrecting his remarkable miss earlier in the game.
29 mins: Penalty appeal for Molde as the ball looked to have struck David Luiz’ arm in the aftermath of a corner, but there really wasn’t much the Brazilian could do. His arms were in a natural position and the ball was fired straight at him. Correct decision from the referee.
34 mins: Etzaz Hussain whips a fantastic cross into a dangerous area from the right-hand side but it evades everyone and goes behind for a goal kick.
40 mins: Nelson tries his luck from just outside the box but his well struck effort flies a yard or two over the bar.
42 mins: Martin Ellingsen cuts the ball back to Magnus Wolff Eikrem who looked to be in acres of space on the edge of the box, but Granit Xhaka manages to quickly get across and throw himself in front of the Molde captain’s fiercely struck shot. Important block from the Swiss midfielder.
43 mins: Superb in-swinging cross from Nelson after a nice piece of trickery to work himself a yard of space. He zips the ball into a dangerous area but Sinyan produces an important defensive header to deny Nketiah a chance of getting on the end of it.
45 mins: Shaky moment for Runarsson who comes rushing off his line to try and deal with a long ball, but completely misjudges it. Luckily for him, Maitland-Niles is on hand to cover.
Molde 0-0 Arsenal
There goes the half-time whistle. Arsenal have generally been the better team, seeing more of the ball and having more chances, but the best chance of the half fell to Molde with Sinyan somehow failing to tap home into an empty net. Nelson has looked particularly bright for the visitors, but neither side has been able to break the deadlock heading into the break.Embed from Getty Images
Arsenal get us back underway in Molde. Rob Holding has replaced David Luiz at the break, who presumably picked up a knock.
49 mins: Brilliant effort from Pepe. He cuts inside from the right once again and rifles a shot against the underside of the bar from 25 yards out. Fabulous attempt from Arsenal’s club-record signing, really unlucky not to score.
GOAL! MOLDE 0-1 ARSENAL (PEPE 50)
He’s found the net this time! Joe Willock floats in a great delivery from the left towards the back post where Pepe produces an excellent first touch to set himself before curling a powerful strike into the top corner. That will be a huge relief to the Ivorian following his red card on Sunday.Embed from Getty Images
53 mins: OFFSIDE! Nketiah has the ball in the back of the net, poking home into the bottom corner from close range after Linde parries Maitland Niles’ effort straight into his path, but the flag is up for offside.
GOAL! MOLDE 0-2 ARSENAL (NELSON 55)
Nelson doubles Arsenal’s lead. Willock surges forward down the right and sends a low driven cross into a dangerous area where Nelson nips in to fire into the roof of the net from close range on his weaker left side. Nelson deserves that goal – he’s been superb tonight.Embed from Getty Images
58 mins: Xhaka drives forward from deep to spearhead a swift counter-attack and plays the ball out wide to Pepe who sends in a fantastic cross to an unmarked Nketiah, but he heads over the bar. The England u21 international should’ve done better there.
60 mins: Double change for Molde as Hussain and Leke James make way for Mathis Bolly and Ohi Anthony Omoijuanfo.
62 mins: Arsenal make their second change of the evening as Dani Ceballos comes on for Xhaka.
63 mins: Pepe finds himself in a threatening position on the right and picks out Nketiah in the box, however he fails to get any real contact on the ball with an attempted flicked effort on goal.
71 mins: Nketiah lays the ball off for Lacazette who forces a good save from Linde with a fearsome strike from just inside the box.
75 mins: Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe replace Willock and Lacazette for the visitors. Smith Rowe will be happy to get his first minutes of the season with the first-team following an injury-ravaged start to the season.
76 mins: Bolly cuts inside from the left, skipping past both Cedric Soares and Maitland-Niles before unleashing an effort just over the bar.
82 mins: Another double change for Molde sees Birk Risa and Eikrem make way for Marcus Holmgren Pedersen and Ola Brynhildsen. Arsenal also make another change with Balogun coming on in place of Nketiah for his second-ever senior Arsenal appearance.
GOAL! MOLDE 0-3 ARSENAL (BALOGUN 83)
What a moment for the youngster. Balogun has his first senior Arsenal goal, making an immediate impact off the bench. Smith Rowe takes up a good position on the left side of the penalty area and squares the ball to Balogun who controls well on the spin before striking a low shot down the centre of the goal that goes in off Linde.Embed from Getty Images
85 mins: Molde make their final change of the evening as Erling Knudtzon is introduced in place of Stian Gregersen.
90 mins: Arteta will be delighted with his side’s second-half display. They’ve looked dangerous every time they’ve gone forward, playing some superb free-flowing football in the process. Some of these youngsters have definitely given their manager a selection headache heading into Sunday’s Premier League clash with Wolves.
Molde 0-3 Arsenal
Arsenal cruise to the round of 32 of the Europa League with a convincing 0-3 win over Molde following a phenomenal second-half display in Norway. That’s now four wins in four in the Europa League for the Gunners, who will be hoping to transfer this level of performance into the Premier League where they’ve looked out of sorts in recent times. It was the perfect response by Pepe to his sending off at the weekend, capping off a dazzling display with an emphatic goal. Nelson was also on the score sheet and was a bright spark all evening, while Balogun helped himself to a first senior Arsenal goal to round off a good evening for Arsenal.