Arsenal 4 FC Vorskla Poltava 2
If UEFA really want to introduce a third competition to their already congested schedule they may want to think again after watching this one-sided affair.
For, even at the relatively modest scoreline of 4-2, this was the easiest victory Arsenal will achieve all season.
To be fair to the Ukrainians they held firm for half an hour and made it tough for the Gunners to break them down – and they also scored two fine consolation goals towards the end of the game to take back home with them.
But once Arsenal, led by the ever impressive Lucas Torreira, took the lead after 29 minutes, there was only ever going to be one winner.
The breakthrough came when Torreira’s surging midfield burst ended with him finding Alex Iwobi on the right. In an instant the Nigerian controlled the ball and squared it for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who shot the ball home first-time for 1-0.
Three goals in quick succession - from Danny Welbeck, a second, fine finish from Aubameyang and a toe-poke from substitute Mesut Ozil - took the game well away from the Ukrainians early in the second half, before two goals in final 10 minutes which made the scoreline a lot closer than it should have been.
There was a first start for Berndt Leno this evening, and while he could have done little about either Vorskla goal, it was encouraging to see him appear comfortable on the ball in the sweeper-keeper position Petr Cech has looked so uncomfortable in so far this year.
So Arsenal start with three points in a competition they will hope to go far in this year and already the battle for group E’s top spot would appear to be between the Gunners and Sporting Lisbon, who beat Qarabag 2-0 in Portugal tonight.
One last word – it was great to see Santi Cazorla back on the pitch, and back to his best this evening in Villareal’s 2-2 draw with Rangers. Santi ran the show in a game Villareal should have had sewn up long before the Scots equalised for the second time.
The little Spaniard has been one of the most popular players of the Emirates era so far, and it was so good to see him back on the park again.
For the Gunners it’s back to the Premier League on Sunday and a home game against Everton, where they will be hoping to make it five wins on the bounce.