Arsenal kicked off their Europa League campaign with a 3-1 victory over Koln on Thursday night. The kick-off was delayed by an hour due to crowd safety issues, but that mattered very little in the end to the Gunners, as they put in a strong second half display to see off the visitors.
The visitors scored with virtually the first attempt on goal on ten minutes. David Ospina rushed out of his goal to clear a long ball over the top, only for Bittencourt to find Cordoba, who lofted the ball back over the Colombian from around 40 yards out and into the net.
Bittencourt then fired over from long-range as the German side looked increasingly confident. Arsenal saw their first sight of goal on 16 minutes, as Alexis Sanchez saw a header comfortably saved by Timo Horn.
On 22 minutes, Hector Bellerin’s cross into the box was headed tamely towards goal by Olivier Giroud. Theo Walcott then scuffed an effort wide of the Koln goal from around 12 yards out.
Arsenal struggled to create much of note, as the visitors pressed high up the pitch in numbers. The Gunners did threaten through a Mohamed Elneny shot on 33 minutes, but the Egyptian’s effort flew wide of goal.
Giroud then headed well wide of goal from a Sanchez cross, as the Gunners attempted to offer some sort of attacking threat.
Arsenal came out the traps in a more urgent fashion in the second half and equalised just four minutes into the second period. Walcott broke the offside trap and saw a shot block, only for the ball to fall for substitute Sead Kolasinac who superbly volleyed the ball into the far corner of the net.
The home side continued to press and Alex Iwobi fired just wide of Horn’s near post. On the hour mark, the visitors threatened with substitute Jojic firing straight at Ospina from around 25 yards out.
Arsenal looked the more like to score and youngster Maitland-Niles had a big chance to put the Gunners into the lead. The midfielder picked up a pass from Giroud proceeded into the area and with just Horn to beat, the German ‘keeper touched the ball away from danger, though.
It was not long before the Gunners did take the lead and it was a moment of inspiration from Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean looked to be surrounded by Koln players on the wing, but shimmied to the edge of the area and curled a fantastic effort from 20 yards past Horn.
Koln did offer a rare threat and Ospina needed to be on his toes to keep out a Cordoba effort to his right. With a quarter of an hour left on the clock, Horn produced a comfortable save from a long-range free-kick from Sanchez.
Chilean was involved a few minutes later, as Jack Wilshere played him in behind the defence, only for Sanchez to get his effort wrong and fire wide. It meant very little, though, as the referees assistant had flagged for offside.
At the other end, former Dortmund star Jojic had another effort from 20 yards that Ospina dealt with relatively comfortably. Arsenal all but sealed the win with nine minutes left on the clock.
Kolasinac’s cross across the penalty area was dummied by Wilshere and hit a Koln player on the way to Walcott, whose effort was saved but rebound to Hector Bellerin and the Spaniard drilled a powerful low effort past Horn.
Sanchez came close to making it four for Arsenal with one minute left on the clock, but his lofted effort into the far post went just wide of goal.
The Chilean’s was the last effort on goal on a rather strange night for the Gunners both on and off the field. However, the Gunners got their Europa League campaign with a win and the victory will help lift some of the doom and gloom surrounding the club in recent weeks.
Whose goal was the best of the night at the Emirates Stadium?