Slavia Prague vs Arsenal - Match Report
By Charlie Woollard
Three goals in six first-half minutes and a second half strike sent Arsenal through to a second Europa League semi-final in three years.
After a very disappointing end to the first leg in North London, the Gunners needed a strong first half to settle any nerves and Mikel Arteta’s side did that.
It could have been four goals in very quick succession, Emile Smith Rowe’s fourteenth minute strike was ruled out for offside by VAR.
The North London club used the momentum from the disallowed goal to spur them onto opening the score line. The victim for the offside goal, Smith Rowe, danced his way around the edge of the box before squaring the ball to Nicolas Pepe who smashed the ball past Slavia Prague keeper Ondrej Kolar at his near post.
Three minutes later, wonderful work from the Gunners on the right wing led to Bukayo Saka being brought down inside the box that then led to the skipper for the evening Lacazette, firing Arsenal into a two-nil lead on the night but a three-one aggregate lead to put pure joy onto his mangers face.
Arteta’s joy turned to delight, as his side then found a third goal three minutes after the second. Arguably Arsenal best player this season Saka, scored a superb solo goal to surely send his side into the semi-finals of the Europa League.
Just when his season couldn’t get any better, with four goals to his name, Bukayo Saka is now Arsenal's joint-top teenage scorer in major European competition, level with Charlie George and Ray Kennedy.
The half time result on paper is a real shock as Slavia Prague came into this game unbeaten for almost two years at home and unbeaten in their last 7 European home games. The Gunners at the break were firing on all cylinders.
The second half was very much all about a well composed and controlled performance for Mikel Arteta’s side. The Czech side came out of the blocks quickly as expected and fired a few of their own shots at Bernd Leno but the clean sheet was very much intact.
Arsenal kept a clean sheet in a European game for the first time in eight games, since a 3-0 away win over Molde in the UEFA Europa League in November 2020.
Thirteen minutes from time, a three-nil lead turned to four as Arsenal’s top goal scorer this season added to his first half goal to finish the game off well and truly. Lacazette took his tally for the season to seventeen, equalling his tally for his debut season in North London.
An emphatic performance from Arteta’s men on the night meant they would then turn their attention towards a huge semi-final clash against former Gunner’s boss Unai Emery and his side Villarreal.
What the manager said:
Mikel Arteta said "For me it is a joy to watch them [Saka and Smith Rowe] play, to watch them every day in training.
"How they behave, the passion and the commitment they have for the club. And then how much they like to play football.
"You have to let them express themselves and give them certain frameworks to work in and some ideas on how they can exploit their qualities. Then it is up to them and I thought both of them were really good today.
"Credit to [all] the players, for how they approached the game and how brave they were in their approach”.
Arsenal’s next game is against relegation fighters Fulham in a London Derby at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.