Lacazette leads Arsenal past Valencia

UEFA Europa League

A brace from Alexandre Lacazette inspired Arsenal to a 3-1 win over Valencia in UEFA Europa League semi-final first-leg on Thursday evening.

Arsenal made two changes in Shkodran Mustafi and Matteo Guendouzi, while Valencia re-called Ezequiel Garay, Gabriel, Jose Gaya, Cristiano Piccini, Daniel Parejo and Rodrigo.

Los Che provided the early signs with a close-range miss from Goncalo Guedes, but they were ahead on 11 minutes after Moucta Diakhaby slotted in at the back-post to head home a looping ball.

Valencia nearly grabbed a second four minutes later through a low shot from Parejo, however Petr Cech saved with the rebound hoofed over the top from Gaya.

Arsenal fought back and levelled on 18 minutes after Alexandre Lacazette tapped home Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s well-laid pass.

The Gunners turned the game on its head on 26 minutes, as Neto struggled to keep out Lacazette’s far-post header – thus giving the hosts a 2-1 lead.

Arsenal ended the half on a solid note, with Aubameyang drilling a half-volley into the ground and over the top in the latter stages.

In the second half, Valencia exerted extreme pressure on the Gunners with Rodrigo and Parejo leading the charge.

This forced Unai Emery to make a change in the middle of the park on 57 minutes, as Guendouzi made way for Lucas Torreira.

Lacazette was denied a hat-trick on 66 minutes after Neto got down to block not one but two of his attempts.

Valencia weren’t prepared to surrender and on 71 minutes brought on two strikers in Daniel Wass and Kevin Gameiro.

However, the Gunners grabbed the third a minute into time added on after Aubameyang made space at the far post to fire home for a comfortable first-leg victory ahead of the return-leg next week.