Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Weakened Gunners Repel Late Attacks to Bat Away Borisov and Maintain Good Start; BATE BORISOV 2 ARSENAL4

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Weakened Gunners Repel Late Attacks to Bat Away Borisov and Maintain Good Start; BATE BORISOV 2 ARSENAL4

Article excerpt

AN under-strength Arsenal XI survived a late fightback from BATE Borisov to secure a crucial victory that keeps them on course to progress in the Europa League.

In a game of little quality beyond the superb Jack Wilshere, it was goals from the recalled trio of Theo Walcott, Rob Holding and Olivier Giroud - with his 100th Gunners goal - who sealed all three points at the Borisov Arena in Belarus as much as David Ospina's goalkeeping.

Arsene Wenger (pictured inset) had retained only Mohamed Elneny and Skodran Mustafi from the team that on Monday defeated West Brom 2-0, handing rare starts to Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, while Joseph Willock made his senior debut.

It was the experienced defence of Per Mertesacker, Mustafi and Holding that regardless proved consistently vulnerable, but with Ospina impressive and BATE so disorganised, Arsenal were left top of Group H with the maximum six points from their two openers.

Play had yet to develop any sort of pattern when Wilshere's through-ball sent Walcott clear, from where the forward struck the post with a shot off the outside of his right foot, retrieved the rebound, and then saw his next effort blocked.

Almost immediately after that in the ninth minute, Wilshere played a one-two with Giroud to beat three defenders and then square a cross towards Walcott, who after watching Denis Scherbitski save his header, routinely finished the rebound.

The erratic hosts did not pose any sort of threat until Igor Stasevich broke down the left and Mertesacker unconvincingly cleared his cross to the edge of the area.

Mirko Ivanic responded to that by striking well on the bounce but his effort flew just beyond the left post.

If that appeared any sort of platform to build upon, it swiftly meant little.

In the 22nd minute, Scherbitski sloppily passed the ball under minimal pressure to Walcott, gifting him the close-range finish with which he scored. …

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