Nicolas Pepe and Joe Willock put the finishing touches to Arsenal’s 4-1 comeback victory over Molde in the Europa League on Thursday.
Arsenal were sluggish early on and they were punished as, with their first attack, Molde broke and Martin Ellingsen curled his second ever goal on the continent into the net in the 22th minute to give the Norwegians a shock lead.
Molde looked to have done enough to hold the Gunners until the interval, only for Kirstoffer Haugen to put through his own net on the cusp on half time to level things up.
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Another own goal turned the match on its head, Sheriff Sinyan the guilty party in the 62nd minute, before one slick move put the game to bed, as Pepe swept the ball home, with Joe Willock hammering home a fourth to keep Arsenal sitting pretty in Group B.
Mikel Arteta rang the changes for this Bonfire Night clash, nine in total from the weekend win at Manchester United, and it seemed to be disrupt the Gunners’ cohesion in the first half.
For all their possession, Arsenal struggled to create any openings of note, and they were caught on the counter by the visitors, as Ellingsen curled a sublime strike past the despairing dive from Bernd Leno.
Arsenal were perhaps a little unfortunate not to get on level terms when Eddie Nketiah found the net, only for Joe WIllock to be offside behind him - no VAR in the Europa League. Moments later, however, and Nketiah was involved again, this time seeing his squared pass put through his own net by Haugen.
After the break, Arsenal stepped it up a gear, and after Sinyan's own goal when trying to cut out a Willock cross, the Gunners turned on the style, with Bukayo Saka stepping off the bench to set up Pepe, before Willock got the goal his all-action display deserved to put the icing on the cake.
TALKING POINT - Squad flexes its muscles
With Arteta making so many changes, the intensity was not there in Arsenal's play in the opening exchanges, but the desire to turn the match on its head from some of Arsenal's fringe players will have pleased Arteta a great deal.
Eddie Nketiah was sharp in attack and heavily involved in much of what was good about Arsenal, Joe Willock was superb in midfield, while several other players staked a claim for a more regular place in the side.
Molde were no pushovers, but the Gunners' fringe players did not panic, even when going behind.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Joe Willock.
The youngster covered every blade of grass, and was not afraid to break the lines with some penetrative runs that ultimately unlocked Molde. His goal was thoroughly deserved.
Arsenal players celebrate after Sheriff Sinyan of Molde scores an own goal
Image credit: Getty Images
Arsenal: Leno 6, Maitland-Niles 6, Mustafi 6, Luiz 7, Kolasinac 6, Ceballos 6, Xhaka 6, Willian 6, Willock 8, Pepe 8, Nketiah 7... Subs: Tierney 6, Saka 7, Soares 6, Elneny 6.
Molde: Linde 6, Wingo 5, Bjornbak 6, Gregersen 6, Haugen 5, Aursnes 6, Eikrem 6, Hussain 7, Elllingsen 7, Omoijuanfo 6, Bolly 6. Subs: Sinyan 4, Mostrom N/A, James 6, Knudtzon 6, Brynhildsen 6.
22’ - GGGGGOOOOOOAAALLLLLL!!!! Arsenal 0-1 Molde. What a shock that is! With Molde's first attack, Martin Ellingsen finds the net. Fabulous finish! Wow. From a Leno goal kick, Molde counter in a flash, Ellingsen has time to line up the shot, and curls a beauty into the corner from 25 yards. What a way to score your second ever European goal.
43’ - NO GOAL! Pepe does really well to twist and turn before sliding the ball across, Nketiah slots the ball in, but is denied by the linesman's flag. It may have been Willock, behind Nketiah, who was offside.
45+1’ - GGGGGOOOOOOAAAALLLLLLLL!!! Arsenal 1-1 Molde. It is an own goal in the end from Haugen, but the move deserved a finish from Arsenal. Such a swift counter, with Xhaka carrying the attack to the visitors, he had options either side, elected to slide in Nketiah, who fed the ball back across for Willock, but Haugen, on the slide, can only divert the ball into his own net.
54’ - MISS! What a miss from Sead Kolasinac, of all people. Cross from the right is poorly dealt with Andreas Linde. The Molde 'keeper can only palm the ball down for Kolasinac, who has the goal at his mercy, but he blazes over from four yards!
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62’ - GGGGOOOOOOAAALLLLL!!!! Arsenal 2-1 Molde. Another Arsenal goal, another own goal! Willock plays a one-two with Xhaka, he does well to hold off his man, squares the ball across, only for Sinyan to divert the ball into this own net. Three Molde goalscorers!
65’ - CHANCE! Big chance for Arsenal to put this game to bed. The ball is floated to the far post where Pepe is waiting. He side foots a volley goalwards, but there's not enough power to trouble Linde, who makes a comfortable save.
69’ - GGGGOOOOOOAAALLLLl!!! Arsenal 3-1 Molde. That is more like it from Arsenal as Pepe fires home. Clinical from the Gunners. Saka does really well to pick out Pepe with a brisk pass, and Pepe sweeps the ball into the net with aplomb.
88’ - GGGOOOOOOAAALLLLL!!! Arsenal 4-1 Molde. A deserved goal for Willock puts this game to bed. Another slick move. Elneny slides the ball into Pepe, who feeds Willock, with the young midfielder rifling the ball into the net.
- Arsenal have avoided defeat in 60% of their matches when conceding first under manager Mikel Arteta, winning four and drawing two of 10 such games (L4).
- Arsenal have won 15 of their 21 UEFA Europa League group stage games (71% - D4 L2), at least six more than any other side since the 2017/18 season.
- Norwegian teams have lost 21 of their 23 away games vs English sides in all European competition (D2), netting 14 goals and conceding 104 in those games.
- Arsenal have benefitted from two own goals in a single game for the first time since beating Swansea 4-0 in the Premier League in January 2017.
- Nicolas Pépé has had a hand in eight goals in nine UEFA Europa League appearances since joining Arsenal (4 goals, 4 assists), scoring in back-to-back games in the competition for the first time.