Qarabag 0-3 Arsenal
Qarabag 0-3 Arsenal: Emile Smith Rowe scores first senior goal for Gunners alongside Matteo Guendouzi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos as they maintain perfect start to Europa League
- Sokratis Papastathopoulos scored his first Arsenal goal in just the fourth minute on Thursday evening
- Emile Smith Rowe nearly put the Gunners 2-0 ahead moments later on his European debut against Qarabag
- Mahir Madatov thought he levelled for the hosts early on in the second half but it was ruled out for offside
- And just moments later, Smith Rowe netted his first competitive senior goal for Arsenal with a fine finish
- Matteo Guendouzi wrapped up proceedings with a right-footed finish into the bottom corner on 79 minutes
The finish reminded you of a seasoned European campaigner. Bursting with poise, exuding confidence.
The actual execution was that of an 18-year-old. Remember the name Emile Smith Rowe.
Judging by his performance here in Baku, that won’t be difficult.
Qarabag (4-2-3-1): Vagner 5; Medvedev 5, Huseynov 6, Rzezniczak 5, Agoli 5; Garayev 5 (Slavchev 84), Michel 5; Madatov 6 (Delarge 61), Ozobic 7 (Abdullayev 67), Zoubir 6; Emeghara 6.
Subs: Halldorsson, Mammadov, A Huseynov, Diniyev.
Arsenal (3-5-2): Leno 7; Lichtsteiner 6.5, Holding 6.5, Sokratis 7, Monreal 6.5 (Torreira 46, 6.5); Elneny 6.5, Guendouzi 7; Iwobi 7 (Lacazette 71, 6), Smith Rowe 7.5 (Ozil 65, 6.5), Kolasinac 6.5; Welbeck 6.
Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Mustafi, Xhaka. Booked: Holding.
Ref – Davide Massa – 6
MOM: Smith Rowe
The fact he’s still a teenager beggars belief. So much is expected of this talented attacking midfielder – it’s not hard to see why.
After Jack Wilshere’s emotional farewell in the summer, the position as the Arsenal academy’s Golden Boy is vacant.
In Smith Rowe, the Gunners may have found the air to Wilshere’s throne.
The fact manger Unai Emery trusts the youngster at such an early stage of his development speaks bundles.
As does the fact Arsenal have now won eight consecutive games. Slowly, Emery’s reign is taking shape.
With six points out of six in the Europa League, his side look a safe bet to qualify for next year’s knockout stages.
You wouldn’t bet against them making it nine in nine against Fulham on Sunday.
Arsenal’s evening got off to a flier; Sokratis bundling home after Nacho Monreal’s flicked header from Mohamed Elneny’s corner sparked chaotic scenes in Qarabag’s defence.
Having cruised to victory in their first Europa League outing of the season against Vorskla Poltava, the pace of Arsenal’s start here in Azerbaijan pointed to another comfortable evening.
Had Smith Rowe finished a move he started at the back post in the 18th minute then it could easily have ended up a cricket score.
Instead, Arsenal were fired to endure an entirely uncomfortable first half as the hosts drew strength from the vociferous home crowd in search of a leveller.
First, Mahir Madatov was denied by Bernd Leno after bamboozling Sead Kolasinac – who was making his first appearance after a long-term knee injury – before Filip Ozobic saw his fierce effort stopped by the German.
And then, just seconds before the break, Maksim Medvedev – for a moment – had the Olympic Stadium in a frenzy as he rippled the side netting.
It was all very concerning for Emery in his technical area. It wasn’t supposed to be this difficult.
Indeed, the Arsenal manager reverted to his favoured back-four, after starting the game with a three-man defence, for the start of the second half.
Yet, Arsenal remained on the ropes; the Spaniard’s heart in his mouth four minutes after the restart when Madatov slid the ball past Leno only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.
Eventually it took a teenager to ease Arsenal’s nerves, yet the composure of the finish defied Smith-Rowe’s tender age.
Alex Iwobi – another Hale End graduate – set up Smith Rowe who kept calm to coolly pass the ball past Vagner to double Arsenal’s lead.
It’ll be a moment the kid never forgets. If those who have nurtured Smith Rowe’s career to date are right – he’ll be an unforgettable footballer.
The youngster’s evening ended in the 64th minute when he was replaced by Mesut Ozil.
It’s Smith Rowe’s dream to one day wear Ozil’s No 10 shirt at his boyhood club. On this evidence his dream will come true.
Matteo Guendouzi completed the scoring for Arsenal in the 80th minute, with a smart low finish past Vagner.
But this night belonged to Smith Rowe. You get the impression it was the first night of many.