Vorskla 0-3 Arsenal
Vorskla 0-3 Arsenal: Unai Emery’s young guns secure top spot in Europa League group as Emile Smith Rowe, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Willock score
- Arsenal took a 10th minute lead through Emile Smith Rowe, who netted his third senior goal for the Gunners
- Aaron Ramsey then doubled the visitors’ advantage with a penalty in the 27th minute on Thursday evening
- Joe Willock scored his first senior Arsenal goal with a brilliant curling effort just before half time
- RECAP: Click here to take a look back at all the action from the Europa League group clash in Kiev
ahead of this Europa League encounter, it was calmness from Arsenal’s unfazed youngsters that finally put an end to the Poltava palaver once and for all.
Unai Emery’s side won to ensure they qualify top of Group E, with two teenagers in Emile Smith Rowe and Joe Willock scoring to extend their unbeaten run to 18 games.
It was –10C at kick-off and at one point, the referee had to replace his can of spray because it was frozen stiff. Nevertheless, Arsenal’s team of starlets kept their cool in the icy conditions.
The Wales international sends Vorskla goalkeeper Bohdan Shust to the floor as he makes it 2-0 to Arsenal in the 27th minute
Vorskla players complain to the referee after Ramsey’s penalty, claiming the Welshman stopped during his run-up
Vorskla Poltava (4-4-1-1): Shust 5; Perduta 5, Chesnakov 4.5, Dallku 4.5, Artur 5; Sapai 5 (Careca 36, 5), Skliar 4.5, Sharpar 5, Rebenok 5 (Sakiv 85); Kulach 5 (Kane 71, 5.5); Kolomoyets 5
Subs (not used): Tkachenko, Serhiichuk, Mysyk, Chyzhov
Booked: Sklyar, Sharpar, Kolomoets
Manager: Vasyl Sachko 5
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech 7; Lichtsteiner 7, Holding 7 (Medley 60, 6.5), Jenkinson 7, Maitland-Niles 7.5; Elneny 7.5, Guendouzi 8 (Gilmour 76); Willock 8, Ramsey 7.5 (Saka 68, 6.5), Smith Rowe 8.5; Nketiah 7
Subs (not used): Martinez, Mkhitaryan, Osei-Tutu, John-Jules
Scorers: Smith Rowe 10, Ramsey 27 (pen), Willock 41
Manager: Unai Emery 7.5
Referee: Bartosz Frankowski 6
Arsenal will now head into their Premier League meeting with Tottenham Hotspur looking to make it 19 matches unbeaten. Emery knows it will be nowhere near as easy as this.
The worst it got was when their team bus broke down on the way to the Olympic Stadium. Even so, the youngsters dealt with whatever was thrown at them, from the weather to their travel troubles.
‘The spirit and quality was good,’ Emery said. ‘We have a responsibility with young players to show us if they can improve and stay with us. They need confidence playing matches.’
Vorskla Poltava, fourth in the Ukrainian Premier League, used this week’s events as an excuse after chaos and confusion overshadowed the build-up to this clash.
First, Ukraine’s parliament imposed martial law in parts of the country due to conflict with Russia, prompting UEFA to move the match to the capital.
Then, Vorskla complained the stadium switch wiped out their home advantage. They had sold 25,000 tickets for the tie but the 70,000-seater Olympic Stadium was less than a tenth full.
The night before this clash, the Ukrainian club claimed they may not even play the European tie. Thankfully, they did turn up. Well, sort of.
Speaking afterwards, Vorskla’s furious boss Vasyl Sachko said: ‘A holiday was taken away from Poltava. This game was very important for our city. One of the most important games for 10 years.
‘It influenced the mental condition of the players very much. That was a big influence on the mentality on the team. If we played at home, there would definitely be another result.’
Emery named a number of kids in his squad with 12 of the 20 who travelled products of the academy. The starting line-up’s outfield players had only 389 Premier League appearances between them, and 247 of those belonged to Aaron Ramsey.
Within 11 minutes, Arsenal had their opener and it came from Smith Rowe, the 18-year-old who has yet to appear in the top flight.
Ramsey and Eddie Nketiah worked their way into the box with back-to-back one-twos and the ball bobbled towards Smith Rowe. With a gaping goal from 12 yards, he made no mistake.
It was made 2-0 after 27 minutes when Smith Rowe fed Ramsey, who danced his way around two Vorskla defenders. Igor Perduta bundled him over and Polish referee Bartosz Frankowski pointed to the spot, ignoring the subsequent protests of the Ukrainian side’s players.
Ramsey took it himself, gave goalkeeper Bohdan Shust the eyes and found the right-hand corner.
Emery was pacing in his technical area, partly to keep warm but also to ensure the foot was not taken off the gas. Before half-time, Arsenal helped themselves to a third.
A quick through-ball by Mohamed Elneny gave Willock something to chase. He had a man ahead of him but no matter, as the 19-year-old bended the ball around the defender from 18 yards.
To sum up Vorskla’s contribution to the first half, one final opportunity saw Vladyslav Kulach let rip from 25 yards, only to slice his shot and fall on his backside.
Strangely, the records showed that Arsenal had never won an away match against Ukrainian opposition, having drawn once and lost four. They were well on their way to righting that wrong.
It looked like it was 4-0 in the 65th minute when Smith Rowe scored a tap-in at the back post. The players were giving the academy product pats on the back but 30 seconds later, the goal was ruled out.
All of a sudden, the assistant had his flag up for an apparent offside, and Smith Rowe would have to make do with only being on the scoresheet once.
This was an unusual match overall. Outside the Olympic Stadium, there were more Ukrainian soldiers than actual supporters.
Still, the 500 or so Arsenal fans who travelled to Ukraine left happy enough. The plan now? To thaw out, then tackle Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.