By Israel Igiri- Sports Editor
Arsenal took a huge step towards the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Ostersunds on a night where they emerged in sub-zero temperatures at the Jamtkrft Arena.
Arsene Wenger who made five changes following Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, welcomed the likes of David Ospina, Calcum Chambers, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck to the starting lineup in a game his side were expected to win, which they lived up to, as Thursday night football resumed.
Nacho Monreal handed the Gunners the lead after 13 minutes on the clock, tapping home the rebound from six yards after A+ly Keita parried a tame Iwobi’s shot into his path. That was his first ever European goal for the Gunners.
Wenger’s men had more bullets to shoot as they doubled their lead in the 24th minute when Soitrios Papagiannopoulos turned a Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s drilled cross past his goalkeeper.
Wenger’s men came under pressure from the Swedish side early in the second half but Mesut Ozil who was playing his first match in the Europe League this season scored the third in the 58th minute when he drilled a shot through Keita’s feeble attempted save after receiving a pass from Mkhitaryan.
Ostersund’s endeavour to get a goal never wavered and in the dying minutes, they could have grabbed a consolation when Hector Bellerin brought down Tesfaldet Terkie in the area but Tom Pettersson’s weak penalty was easily held by David Ospina to ensure that the North Londoners hold a huge advantage ahead of next Thursday’s return leg at the Emirates.
The win means Arsenal have won the first leg in the knockout stages of a European fixture for the first time since February 2011, when they beat FC Barcelona 2-1 in the last season of the Champions League. They are now as good as through to the last 16 of the competition.
In some of the other results, Sporting CP were 3-1 winners over FC Astana in Kazakhstan, Michy Batshuayi double sealed a 3-2 win for Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park, Gennaro Gattuso’s AC Milan side won Ludogorets Razgrad 3-0 away from home, Atletico Madrid ran riot in Denmark with a 4-1 win over FC Copenhagen while RB Leipzig had a famous 3-1 victory over SSC Napoli at the San Paolo.