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Aubameyang at the double as Arsenal prevail in Europa League opener

The Gunners saw off Vorskla in the Europa League thanks to goals from Danny Welbeck, Mesut Ozil and a brace from the Gabonese striker.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates a goal.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates a goal.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG scored a goal in each half as Arsenal eased to a 4-2 win over Vorskla in the Europa League.

The Ukrainian visitors proved stubborn opponents initially, but the result was rarely in doubt from the moment Aubameyang broke the deadlock after 32 minutes.

Danny Welbeck was on target early in the second half before Aubameyang doubled his tally and Mesut Ozil came off the bench to get in on the act.

Captain Vladimir Chesnakov gave Vorskla something to shout about with an excellent finish 14 minutes from time and Vyacheslav Sharpar found the net in similar style with the last kick of the game.

Alex Iwobi was Arsenal’s liveliest attacking threat during a largely forgettable opening and the Nigeria international’s fine cross allowed Aubameyang to slide home at the back post after Henrikh Mkhitaryan drove at Vorskla on the counter-attack.

Lucas Torriera whipped a free-kick into the side netting before Aubameyang darted inside a pair of challenges to curl an effort against the base of the post.

By the time Vorskla goalkeeper Bogdan Shust pushed a Mkhitaryan attempt over, the away side were certainly in need of half-time.

Upon the restart, Vasyl Sachko’s men were unable to stem the tide and Welbeck was on hand to head in Mkhitaryan’s 48th-minute centre.

Aubameyang crashed a volley over, but was the beneficiary of Shust’s questionable positioning to dispatch Arsenal’s third from the edge of the box in the 56th minute – Mkhitaryan again supplying the ammunition.

Stephan Lichtsteiner lifted the ball over the out-rushing Shust for substitute Ozil to grab a fourth in the 74th minute, but the experienced full-back was caught in possession when Chesnakov smashed in an emphatic strike.

Arsenal had long settled for winding the clock down by the time Sharpar sent a side-footed effort flying past Bernd Leno.

Unai Emery has hit upon a relatively settled line-up in the Premier League, but those given their chance in the midweek rotation largely impressed. Iwobi was a constant threat down the Vorskla right and Lucas Torreira’s first start in England’s top flight is surely imminent. Leno might have liked a bit more to do in goal as he looks to dislodge Petr Cech and had no chance with the late goals.

One goal in five Premier League matches this season represents an unusually fallow run for Aubameyang – one of the most prolific marksmen in Europe over recent years. Sliding in and scuffing a finish into the turf for Arsenal’s opener felt like just the sort of break a striker needs when things are not happening for him. From that point, shining in tandem with old Borussia Dortmund ally Mkhitaryan, the old swagger quickly returned.

Vorskla effectively operated with a back six early on. Once Shust was exposed between the posts, the ploy became even more understandable. The 32-year-old scampered unconvincingly whenever Iwobi and Mkhitaryan sent balls into his box, while Aubameyang’s second goal should not have been so straightforward. Plenty of Vorskla players were in their goalmouth when Ozil made it four – Shust was not one of them.

Results from the first round of group games in the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League on Thursday:

Group A

Ludogorets (BUL) 2 (Keseru 8, Marcelinho 31) Bayer Leverkusen (GER) 3 (Havertz 38, 69, Kiese Thelin 63)

AEK Larnaca (CYP) 0 FC Zurich (SUI) 1 (Kololli 61-pen)

Group B

Celtic (SCO) 1 (Griffiths 87) Rosenborg (NOR) 0

RB Leipzig (GER) 2 (Laimer 70, Poulsen 82) RB Salzburg (AUT) 3 (Dabour 20, Haidara 22, Gulbrandsen 89)

Group C

Slavia Prague (CZE) 1 (Zmrhal 35) Bordeaux (FRA) 0

FC Copenhagen (DEN) 1 (Sotiriou 63) Zenit Saint Petersburg (RUS) 1 (Mak 44)

Group D

Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) 4 (Sunjic 16, Hajrovic 27, 57, Olmo 60) Fenerbahce (TUR) 1 (Neustadter 47)

Spartak Trnava (SVK) 1 (Oravec 79) Anderlecht (BEL) 0

Group E

Arsenal (ENG) 4 (Aubameyang 32, 56, Welbeck 48, Ozil 74) Vorskla Poltava (UKR) 2 (Chesnakov 77, Sharpar 90+4)

Sporting (POR) 2 (Rafinha 54, Cabral 88) Qarabag (AZE) 0

Group F

Olympiakos (GRE) 0 Betis (ESP) 0

Dudelange (LUX) 0 AC Milan (ITA) 1 (Higuain 59)

Group G

Rapid Vienna (AUT) 2 (Timofeev 50-og, Murg 68) Spartak Moscow (RUS) 0

Villarreal (ESP) 2 (Bacca 1, Gerard 69) Rangers (SCO) 2 (Arfield 67, Lafferty 76)

Group H

Lazio (ITA) 2 (Luis Alberto 14, Immobile 84-pen) Apollon Limassol (CYP) 1 (Zelaya 87)

Marseille (FRA) 1 (Ocampos 3) Eintracht Frankfurt (GER) 2 (Torro 52, Jovic 89)

Group I

Genk (BEL) 2 (Trossard 37, Samatta 71) Malmo (SWE) 0

Besiktas (TUR) 3 (Babel 51, Santiago Roco 69, Lens 82) Sarpsborg (NOR) 1 (Zachariassen 90+4) 

Group J

Akhisar (TUR) 0 Krasnodar (RUS) 1 (Claesson 26)

Sevilla (ESP) 5 (Banega 8, 74-pen, Vazquez 41, Ben Yedder 49, 70) Standard Liege (BEL) 1 (Djenepo 39)

Group K

Dynamo Kiev (UKR) 2 (Tsyhankov 11, Garmash 45+2) Astana (KAZ) 2 (Anicic 21, Murtazayev 90+5)

Rennes (FRA) 2 (Sarr 31, Ben Arfa 90+1-pen) Jablonec (CZE) 1 (Travnik 54)

Group L

Vidi (HUN) 0 BATE (BLR) 2 (Tuominen 27, Filipenko 85)

PAOK (GRE) 0 Chelsea (ENG) 1 (Willian 7)

Additional reporting by AFP

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