Sport Slavia Prague 0-4 Arsenal (1-5 agg): Gunners set up Emery reunion after first-half blitz
Arteta says Arsenal's defeat to Liverpool was a 'punch in the face'
Mikel Arteta has likened Arsenal's turgid 3-0 home defeat by Liverpool as a 'punch in the face' but says it has allowed them to get back to reality as they battle to win the Europa League. Arteta watched on as his men were dismantled by a weakened Liverpool side at the Emirates, as the game quickly got away from the Gunners.Now, having taken time to reflect on the match, Arteta admits the defeat has given his side a reality check following a period of form.
Arsenal turned on the style with three goals in six first-half minutes to beat Slavia Prague 4-0 and progress through 5-1 on aggregate, setting up a reunion with Unai Emery's Villarreal in the semi-finals.
A number of spurned opportunities came back to haunt Arsenal in last week's reverse fixture as Tomas Holes scored late on to cancel out Nicolas Pepe's opener in a 1-1 draw.
But the Gunners were at their efficient best in front of a sparse crowd on Thursday, completely wiping out Slavia's away-goals advantage through strikes from Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka inside 24 minutes.
Arsenal 'need someone to punch them', claims Martin Keown
Mikel Arteta's side were wasteful and missed chances to put themsleves out of sight earlier in the game before a poor piece of defending from a corner saw them relinquish their lead. © Provided by Daily Mail Martin Keown laid into Arsenal after their draw with Slavia Prague on Thursday night © Provided by Daily Mail Arsenal conceded a last-minute euqaliser in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final Former Arsenal defender Keown laid into the Gunners for their cagey approach in the first half before they improved after the break.
Slavia had gone 23 games without defeat in all competitions and last lost at home in November 2019, but there was no sign of a comeback as Lacazette added a late fourth for Arsenal to seal an emphatic victory.
Emile Smith Rowe thought he had given Arsenal the lead on the night early on when tapping in after Saka's curler was pushed onto the post by Ondrej Kolar and fell into his path.
The goal was ruled out for offside following a lengthy VAR check, but Smith Rowe played in Pepe a minute later and the winger coolly slotted past Kolar for the visitors' opener.
A second away goal followed from the penalty spot three minutes later, Lacazette sending the keeper the wrong way after Jakub Hromada brought down the lively Saka.
Arsenal showed no signs of slowing as Saka carried the ball inside from the right and drilled a left-footed finish into the bottom-right corner from 18 yards, with Kolar rooted to the spot.
Bellerin says Arsenal can only blame themselves for 'losing games'
Hector Bellerin says the Gunners did well to take the lead in their Europa League quarter-final first leg after Nicolas Pepe's 86th minute goal, but expressed his concern at Tomas Holes' equaliser.Bellerin says the Gunners did well to take the lead in their Europa League quarter-final first leg after Nicolas Pepe’s 86th minute goal, but expressed his concern at Tomas Holes’ equaliser - saying ‘it’s happened to us before’.
That left Slavia requiring four goals to advance but the Czech champions, who knocked out Leicester City and Rangers en route to this stage, struggled to muster a response.
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Lacazette had a penalty appeal rejected when going down in the box but the Frenchman had the last laugh when finding the near post to round off a counter 13 minutes from time, sending Arsenal through with minimal fuss.
What does it mean? Brilliant Gunners keep season alive
Arsenal are relying on the Europa League to salvage their season and, on the basis of this performance, there is no reason why they cannot lift the trophy next month.
With their first-half blitz, the Gunners have now scored three or more goals in four successive away games in all competitions for the first time since December 1932.
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A reunion with ex-boss Emery awaits following Villarreal's 3-1 aggregate win over Dinamo Zagreb, while Roma face Manchester United in the other semi-final.
Saka's teenage kicks
In complete contrast to last week in London, the first half of this second leg was an attacking masterclass from the Gunners, with three of their four forward players on the scoresheet and the other - Smith Rowe - having a goal ruled out.
Saka in particular caught the eye and with his goal he has now netted four times for Arsenal in European competition - the joint-most of any teenager for the club, alongside Charlie George and Ray Kennedy.
Holes in the defence
Centre-back Holes was the hero for Slavia seven days ago with his late equaliser, but he and his team-mates were torn apart time and again by Arsenal on Thursday.
He lost possession 14 times - only striker Peter Olayinka gave it away more often for the hosts - and could not cope with the trickery of Pepe, Smith Rowe and Saka in and around the box.
Arsenal return to Premier League action with a home match against Fulham on Sunday, the same day that Slavia travel to Slovan Liberec in the Czech First League.
Mikel Arteta: Nicolas Pepe must improve his Arsenal consistency .
The Arsenal manager has warned in-form winger Nicolas Pepe he has no more excuses now to justify his £72million price tag after an upturn in form for the Ivorian international.The 25-year-old has enjoyed a good few weeks in north London, scoring in both of Arsenal's Europa League quarter-final legs over Slavia Prague and has started in eight out of the Gunners' last 12 league matches since the end of January.