Arsenal have a golden chance to win their first UEFA Europa League title after securing a spot in the decisive match.
Led by Alexandre Lacazette (one goal, one assist) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (three goals), Unai Emery’s men secured a 4-2 win over Valencia at Mestalla that earned them a 7-3 win on the aggregate score. Kevin Gameiro scored both of Valencia’s goals.
Valencia’s rampant start does not reap enough benefits
The match got off to an impressive start and Valencia came close to break the deadlock in the eighth minute, when Goncalo Guedes blew a rebound over the crossbar. But Los Che only needed 11 minutes to open the score when Gameiro placed the ball into the open goal and past Petr Cech following a great pass from Rodrigo.
Valencia looked absolutely dominant in the early going, but The Gunners found the back of the net in the first clear chance they had. A header from Lacazette found Aubameyang, and the former Dortmund star quickly unleashed a shot that went into Neto’s bottom left corner. Out of nowhere Arsenal grabbed the equalizer, but that didn’t slow down Valencia’s positive approach. The hosts were generating lost of chances on the left wing where Guedes grabbed a prominent role.
The final 15 minutes had chances for both sides. Guedes’ runs on the left and a free kick from Dani Parejo threatened Valencia, while Aubameyang and Lacazette each had clear scoring opportunities down the stretch. But the first 45 minutes ended with a 1-1 draw.
Aubameyang steals the show for Arsenal
Valencia began the second half with the same intensity they showed in the first half, but they couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities. The Gunners took advantage of that and they netted in the first opportunity they had. A run from Aubameyang found Lucas Torreira, who set up Lacazette and the former Lyon star did everything right afterwards. He turned, left a defender behind, and placed the ball out of Neto’s reach.
The goal stunned Valencia quite hard, but Los Che never gave up. A scramble inside the box ended with Dani Parejo setting up Daniel Wass, and the play ended with another strike from Gameiro, his second of the match. The goal woke the Spanish giants and, led by Parejo and Guedes, they began playing near Arsenal’s own box but couldn’t capitalize on the chances they created. It seemed as if Valencia were going to add another goal, but Aubameyang had other plans.
Aubameyang completes his hat-trick late in the contest
The Gunners’ third goal came out of nowhere, though. A sizzling run from Ainsley Maitland-Niles on the right flank allowed the 21-year-old to send a low cross into the box, and Aubameyang was quicker than Ezequiel Garay on the near post to drill one past Neto. It was Aubameyang’s second of the match, and third goal of the tie against the Spanish side.
Valencia didn’t slow things down, but the match was over following the Togolese’s goal. Aubameyang had one more thing to say, though and completed his hat-trick with a rocket into Neto’s near post to make it 4-2.
The Gunners returned to the UEFA Europa League final for the first time since the 1999/00 season – when it was named UEFA Cup – and they will have a golden chance to end the season winning European silverware. They fully deserved it given what they did against Valencia.
Valencia: Neto (5); Piccini (5) (Carlos Soler (5), 56′), Garay (4), Gabriel (5), Gaya (6); Wass (5), Dani Parejo (4), Coquelin (6), Goncalo Guedes (6) (Ferrán Torres (-), 71′); Rodrigo (5) (Santi Mina (-), 71′), Gameiro (7)
Bench: Domenech (GK), Lato, Roncaglia, Diakhaby
Arsenal: Cech (5); Monreal (5), Sokratis (6), Koscielny (6); Maitland-Niles (6), Torreira (7) (Guendouzi (-), 80′), Xhaka (5), Kolasinac (5) (Mustafi (5), 71′); Özil (4) (Mkhitaryan (5), 62′); Lacazette (8), Aubameyang (8)
Bench: Leno (GK), Nketiah, Elneny, Iwobi
Goals: Gameiro (1-0, 11′), Aubameyang (1-1, 17′), Lacazette (1-2, 50′), Gameiro (2-2, 58′), Aubameyang (69′, 2-3), Aubameyang (2-4, 88′)
Referee: Danny Makkelie
Yellow Cards: Garay, Gaya (VAL); Özil (ARS)
Red Cards: None
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