Two own goals, Pepe's curled finish and a Joe Willock late goal was enough to maintain top spot in our group.
Mikel Arteta named a strong side for the Norwegian side. Molde were unbeaten in their previous two Europa League group games as we were, so this match would decide top spot in the group.
Understandable why we had such a potent eleven then. David Luiz came straight back into the side after his injury, and Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos were in the centre of the midfield. Up top were Nketiah, accompanied by Joe Willock who was in more of an advanced role. Nicolas Pepe and Willian were on the flanks, giving us plenty of firepower.
And it was a strong start from Arsenal, as Pepe found Nketiah with a great pass. It left our young striker with the goalkeeper to beat and he had rushed off his line. Nketiah beat him too it and poked it toward goal, but it was cleared off the line.
We didn’t get any closer than that in the first twenty minutes – and then, from nothing, Molde took the lead against the run of play.
Ellingson picked the ball up and from 25 yards out, curled a fantastic shot into the corner past a diving Leno. It was a fantastic hit, and Molde had needed something out of the blue, which they duly produced.
From that moment on, Molde got back into their defensive shape and invited us onto them. Willock nearly picked them off but a late block denied him. Pepe and Willian then switched flanks in order to gain a foothold and perhaps stretch the play, but there was no getting past the Scandinavians at that time.
We had the ball in the back of the net minutes before the end of the first half but it was ruled out for offside, but we weren’t to be denied. Two minutes into stoppage time we grabbed an equaliser.
Molde had pushed up and obviously felt comfortable enough to see the half out and they were punished. Nketiah crossed into the box for Willock but Haugen got in front and poked a leg out, diverting the cross into his own net.
Phew. That was close, but the goal was decisive.
The second half began with Arsenal in the ascendancy and it provided us with what is perhaps one of the misses of the season. Willock crossed, which was spilled by the goalkeeper. Four yards out, Kolasinac picks up the loose ball and leathers it over the bar. How he missed is hard to fathom, but we had spurned a great chance to take the lead.
We didn’t pay the ultimate price for such profligacy though. On 62 minutes, we went ahead and strangely it was through another own goal.
Again , it was Willock who was instrumental. Molde didn’t clear their lines and Willock crossed into the box that Sinyan could only divert into his net.
One shot on target, two goals scored…
We could have been home and hosed minutes later, but Pepe fired at the goalkeeper when well placed. The Ivorian made amends soon after though, set up by the substitute Saka who had been on mere minutes. Pepe did the rest, finding the bottom corner and putting the game out of sight. It was a first time shot and great work from Pepe, but equally impressive was the impact Saka had made.
Willock was excelling in his advanced role and he was causing Molde all sorts of problems with his movement and he nearly created a fourth goal, but Nketiah’s diving header was saved well.
Joe Willock got the goal he deserved late on, after latched onto Pepe’s through ball and lashed into the roof of the net.
From an uncomfortable position to a victory that could’ve been far more – what can we take from the win?
It seems this could be an indicator as to what position suits Willock best. He was shoved up, nearly alongside Nketiah, and it was Willock who created the most trouble for us throughout. Time will tell, but the youngster is coming on leaps and bounds. Truly accomplished performance tonight.
Pepe proves them wrong again
Another start, another goal and an assist. The winger was frustrating at times but also provided a lot of moments when we were at our most dangerous. Needs games now.
Three from three
We have been far from smooth in our Europa League action this season, but we have maximum points. It is a good indicator of how far we’ve come when we don’t play well but still pick up the points.
Next up for Arsenal is a Premier League match at home to high-flying Aston Villa.
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