Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Holding, Mertesacker, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Iwobi, Alexis, Walcott, Giroud
Subs: Macey, Wilshere, Mustafi, The Jeff, Kolasinac, Akpom, Nelson
Arsenal got their Europa League campaign off to a winning start as three second half goals gave them a deserved 3-1 victory over Cologne on what was a strange night overall at the Emirates.
After crowd trouble and safety issues delayed the kick-off by an hour, the game finally got underway at 9.05 – the latest ever kick off time at the Emirates Stadium (a new record, yay!).
It made for a lively atmosphere inside the ground and the visitors had the first chance to put some pressure on with a free kick in a good position, but the attempt hit the wall.
They did make their second attempt count though, going ahead in the 10th minute. David Ospina came out to clear a ball going towards his area, didn’t make great contact, and it fell to Cordoba in midfield who hit it from 40 yards over the keeper before he could get back into his goal. 0-1.
Arsenal looked to respond with a Nacho Monreal header but his effort went straight at the keeper, but the Bundesliga side came closest to scoring next, only for their striker to make a mess of a chance when presented with a sight of goal.
A Bellerin cross saw Giroud get a header on target but without the requisite power to trouble Horn, before Alex Iwobi created a great chance for Walcott but the England international hacked it wide from 12 yards out under pressure from the defender.
Cologne were enjoying themselves though, and a fine through ball caught their attacker offside as he went for the ball and only the flag going up saved Ospina from conceding a penalty as dodgy keeping saw him take out an opponent in the box. The challege on Hector injured the German, and he was replaced in the 35th minute by Jojic.
Giroud headed wide from an Alexis cross, Giroud had a shot blocked, Walcott and Alexis gave the ball away, and the German side took the lead into the break.
Arsene Wenger made a half-time change, bringing on Sead Kolasinac for Holding, and shifting to a back four. The summer signing made an almost immediate impact, equalising in the 49th minute. Elneny played a lovely ball over the top for Walcott, who took it down and saw his cross blocked. The ball looped up into the air, and the Bosnian caught it sweetly on the volley firing it into the far corner. 1-1.
Iwobi volleyed over after a lovely cross from Alexis, Ospina made an actual save from a Cologne shot, and Maitland-Niles had a great chance to put us ahead after a lovely run through their defence. He had the chance to shoot, but decided to go around the keeper, enabling Horn to get a hand on it.
The second goal came shortly afterwards though, via the brilliance of Alexis. Iwobi played him down the left hand side, he came back inside, had defenders in front of him but whipped a superb shot into the top corner. Outstanding. 2-1.
Jack Wilshere came on for Iwobi, Ospina had to save at his near post from goalscorer Cordoba, and Alexis could have had another when played through by Wilshere but he curled his effort wide.
Ospina saved from Jojic, and then Arsenal extended the lead further. Alexis worked it down the left to Kolasinac. He crossed it, Wilshere stepped over it, Walcott had a chance but saw it saved, and Bellerin was there to pounce on the rebound and poke it home. 3-1.
Reiss Nelson was then handed his competitive debut for the club, coming on for Walcott in the 83rd minute. Alexis lobbed wide after lovely build up play involving Wilshere and Giroud, while at the other end Mertesacker blocked a goalbound effort from Bittencourt.
The second period was a good response to a poor first one, and getting a win under our belts before Sunday is no bad thing.
Let’s hope everyone gets home safe and sound and in good spirits.