sport

Arsenal Beat Molde 3-0 To Qualify For Europa League Knockout Phase

Arsenal qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League after beating Molde 3-0 with Nicolas Pepe redeeming himself after his Elland Road red card.

Pepe, whose headbutt on Ezgjan Alioski on Sunday was called “unacceptable” by his manager Mikel Arteta, was given an immediate chance to make up for his misdemeanour by starting in Norway and opened the scoring with a fine curling effort.

Reiss Nelson was on hand to hammer home from close range before substitute 19-year-old Folarin Balogun netted his first goal from the club having been on the pitch for just 37 seconds.

Arsenal needed to be quicker in transitions after the break and came out with a renewed vigour. Pepe cut in from the left in typical fashion on 48 minutes but his fantastic strike from 25 yards came crashing back off the underside of the crossbar. He wouldn’t have to wait long for his moment of redemption though. Just two minutes later he found space in the box and confidently curled a finish into the corner.

That opened the floodgates for Arsenal in the final third. Eddie Nketiah had a goal chalked off for a marginal offside on 52 minutes before Nelson did double the lead moments later. Joe Willock provided the width down the right and his cross was thumped home from close range by Nelson.

Nketiah really should have got his name on the scoresheet but he somehow managed to divert a header from six yards out over the crossbar following another brilliant delivery from the right, this time from Pepe.

With Arsenal easing to victory, Arteta handed some first-team minutes to youngsters Emile Smith Rowe and Balogun, who is highly rated by the manager but is also out of contract at the end of the season.

The pair showed their potential by linking up to brilliant effect to make it 3-0. Smith Rowe ghosted into the box down the left and found the striker, who turned quickly before firing a low effort home. It was just 37 seconds between Balogun entering the field and finding the net.

All eyes were on the club’s record signing. What would his reaction be like following his moment of madness on Sunday? Would he sulk under the spotlight of negativity or grab the game by the scruff of the neck? Thankfully for Arsenal it was the latter as he was in positive mood off the right flank, hitting the crossbar with a stunning effort before tucking away the all-important opener.

AFP

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