Europa League result: Arsenal score three to beat Olympiacos in style ahead of Emirates return leg
Europa League last 16 first leg, Stadio Karaiskaki - Olympiacos 1 (El-Arabi 58') Arsenal 3 (Odegaard 34', Gabriel 79', Elneny 85')
Arsenal's Brazilian defender Gabriel (R) celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first-leg football match between Olympiacos FC and Arsenal FC at the Karaiskakis Stadium
Olympiacos struggled to create much of note until Arsenal presented them with opportunities. David Luiz was fortunate to get away with a casual clearance towards the end of the first period when Georgios Masouras contrived to fire off target. The visitors did not heed the warning though, and were pegged back just prior to the hour when Youssef El-Arabi robbed Dani Ceballos and curved a fine shot beyond Bernd Leno.
Arsenal looked like they were going to rue another avoidable error, but two goals in six minutes late in the day claimed a significant first-leg advantage. First, Gabriel rose majestically to loop a header into the far corner before substitute Mohamed Elneny drilled a superb strike in off the far post five minutes from time.
Next up, Arsenal have the small matter of the North London derby at home to Tottenham on Sunday. The Gunners will then reconvene with Olympiacos for the second leg of this tie next Thursday.
Arteta demands a 'ruthless' Arsenal despite win at Olympiacos
One down, four to go but Arsenal must stop the self sabotage. Ahead of this match, Arteta spoke of Arsenal’s need to put together a run of four or five wins in a row. Well, this was a confident start to build their confidence heading into an important spell. The Gunners know that Europa League glory or a late charge in the Premier League are their only routes back into Europe next season. They have a proud record of qualifying for European competition that stretches back 24 years, but they have left themselves with plenty to do to keep that record going.
Arsenal are 10th in the English top-flight and seven points behind seventh-placed Tottenham, who they face this weekend in a crunch derby. After that, they will hope to finish off Olympiacos and banish last season’s demons before a trip to Champions League-chasing West Ham. Champions Liverpool await at the start of April, so it’d be no small feat if Arteta and co can put together that winning sequence he craves. There are signs that this team are capable of doing significant damage to their opponents, but they must cut out their knack of self sabotage if they are to achieve their ambitions.
Seven of the 14 goals they have conceded in 2021 have been the result of unforced errors, and if that continues then stringing wins together becomes that much more difficult. Arteta has thrown down the gauntlet to his players, and while they have shown sparks of promise, he isn’t wrong in trying to demand more consistency from his squad as they try to finish a rollercoaster season with a flourish.
Arsenal FC players celebrate a goal by Martin Odegaard of Arsenal FC during the UEFA Europa League match between Olympiacos FC and Arsenal FC at Georgios Karaiskakisstadion
Image credit: Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gabriel (Arsenal). The defender capped a strong display at the back with a quite wonderful header that put Arsenal back in control of the game late in the day. It was a key contribution with the height and desire of his leap really highlighting how determined he was to ensure his team came away with the win.
6’ – ARSENAL CHANCE! Aubameyang sees his deflected header tipped on to the bar by Sa after a superb cross from Bellerin had picked out the Gunners forward.
34’ - GOAL! – Olympiacos 0-1 Arsenal. Odegaard opens his Arsenal account with a thumping left-foot drive that somehow flies right through Sa.
40’ – OLYMPIACOS CHANCE! That is a massive let off! Luiz is way too casual when trying to clear his lines inside his own area. Masouras reads it and intercepts but lashes his shot wide of target. He should have scored.
58’ - GOAL! – Olympiacos 1-1 Arsenal. Youssef El-Arabi coolly bends a shot beyond the out of position Leno after Ceballos was caught out deep in his own half.
79’ - GOAL! – Olympiacos 1-2 Arsenal. The Gunners are back in front! Gabriel leaps into the sky to meet Willian's cross and loop a header into the far corner.
85’ - GOAL! – Olympiacos 1-3 Arsenal. Arsenal are in dreamland now. Elneny comes off the bench and rifles a 25-yard shot in off the far post.
Martin Ödegaard scores - Olympiakos Piräus vs. FC Arsenal
Image credit: Getty Images
Odegaard’s strike was his first ever goal for Arsenal – the Gunners have now had more different goalscorers in the UEFA Europa League this season than any other side (14).
Willian has provided more assists in all competitions than any other Arsenal player this season, including all three of Gabriel's strikes for the Gunners.
No player has made more errors leading to a goal in the UEFA Europa League this season than Dani Ceballos, with the Spaniards two errors coming in Arsenal's last two games.