Alexandre Lacazette scored 18 goals in the knockout phase of the Europa League
Arsenal secured what coach Mikel Arteta called an “important win at a crucial moment” as they impressively swept aside Slavia Prague to advance to the Europa League semi-finals.
The Gunners showed one of their best campaign performances to turn a potentially difficult night into a nice away win.
With an even 1-1 draw, they scored three goals in the first 24 minutes and one more goal was ruled out by the video assistant referee – almost the end of the competition in the opening phase.
It kept their hopes of winning the competition alive – and with it their only realistic chance for European football next season.
“The guys were really there from the start,” said Arteta. “We won convincingly so thanks to the players.”
Nicolas Pepe slid home from the post after 18 minutes to open the goal before Alexandre Lacazette converted a penalty three minutes later for a foul on Bukayo Saka.
Saka swept coolly in the third when Arsenal tore their Czech opponents apart again.
Arteta’s team then controlled the game expertly and Lacazette hit his second low into the net in the final stages.
The Gunners face Villarreal, led by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery, in the last four.
Manchester United face Roma in the other semi-final after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side comfortably beat Granada.
The rampant arsenal keeps the season going
This was Arsenal’s biggest game of the season.
Had they lost, their campaign would have effectively ended. Instead, they breathed life into the past two months.
Their waste in the first leg skipped the draw, but they were extremely clinical in Prague, where their hosts hadn’t lost in more than a year.
Arsenal’s two-goal scorer Lacazette stared straight at the Slavia Prague players as he grabbed his knee before kick-off. The Slavia players stood up while the visiting team made the anti-racism gesture
Spurred on by the cunning and energy of Emile Smith Rowe, they scored three goals from five shots in the first half – without their captain Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, who Shortly before the kick-off it was announced that he had malaria.
Slavia had already banned Leicester and Rangers from this year’s competition, but at halftime they replaced four key players, apparently an acceptance that the tie was over.
It’s been 25 years since Arsenal, currently ninth in the league, failed to qualify for Europe and that win ensured they could extend that run.
On April 29, you will meet Emery, who led Arsenal to the 2019 Europa League final and won the tournament three times as manager of Seville.
“It’s going to be very difficult and Unai Emery is probably the most successful manager in the competition,” Arteta told BT Sport.
“We started very well and were aggressive in our high press.
“We looked like a threat the whole time. I like the team’s reaction to the goal that wasn’t allowed.”
Arsenal’s best performance of the season?
It’s no surprise that that feat was reunited on the scrimmage line with Smith Rowe and Saka – the two shining lights of Arsenal’s inconsistent season.
Smith Rowe, a doubt for the game with an ankle injury that kept him from beating Sheffield United at the weekend, had put Arsenal ahead in the 14th minute when he bent the rebound after Saka’s rasping shot hit the post, but he was just judged offside.
However, it was the 20-year-old playmaker who showed adorable feet to beat Pepe a moment later for the opener.
He then played in Saka, whose journey was wrongly stopped by the sliding Jakub Hromada, which led to the second goal from the penalty spot.
Saka was in the spotlight shortly afterwards, darting off his flank again and finding the bottom corner, while Lacazette’s free kick was clinical and ensured the end of the second half.
Pepe, a player who was often criticized during his time at Arsenal, was also left impressed. He now has five goals and four assists in this year’s competition.
Arteta will also like how Arsenal managed the game with a defensive solidity that has sometimes not been seen this season.
“It was fantastic from start to finish,” Saka told BT Sport.
“It shows everyone how exciting we can be. When we play like this, it’s so amazing to be part of it.”
Lacazette loves the Europa League – the best stats
- Arsenal have made it to the semi-finals of European competition (including the Fairs Cup) for the tenth time, with the Gunners making the last four in three of their four Europa League campaigns.
- Slavia Prague suffered their first home defeat in their last seven European games (W3 D3) and conceded more goals in this game (4) than in the previous six games on home soil (3).
- Arsenal have scored more than 3 goals (5 games) in five away games in all competitions for the first time since December 1932.
- Arsenal have remained clean for the first time in eight games in a European game since a 3-0 away win against Molde in the Europa League in November 2020.
- Nicolas Pepe was directly involved in nine goals (4 goals, 5 assists) in his ten starts for Arsenal in the Europa League.
- Emile Smith Rowe made his seventh assist in all competitions this season, most of all Arsenal players in 2020-21 (equivalent to Willian).
- Only Radamel Falcao (20) and Kevin Gameiro (19) have scored more goals in the knockout phase of the Europa League than Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette (18).
- Alexandre Lacazette has scored more than 2 goals in consecutive games in all competitions for the first time since his last three appearances for Lyon in May 2017.
- With four goals, Bukayo Saka is now Arsenal’s top teenage scorer in major European competitions, along with Charlie George and Ray Kennedy.
Arsenal return to the Premier League against Fulham at the Emirates Stadium (13:30 BST kick-off) on Sunday.
Player of the game
Cadre number9PlayernameOladeji Olayinka
Cadre number18thPlayernameHe fought
- 5BahReplaced byVišinskýat the 45 ‘protocol
- 18thHe foughtReplaced byDorleyat the 45 ‘protocol
- 25thstackBooked at 20 minutesReplaced bycarnivalat the 45 ‘protocol
- 7thStanciuReplaced byLingrat the 45 ‘protocol
- 9Oladeji OlayinkaBooked at 63 minutes
- 16KuchtaReplaced byTeclat the 71 ‘protocol
- 18thpartyReplaced byCédric Soaresat the 79 ‘protocol
- 7thSaysReplaced byMartinelliat the 79 ‘protocolBooked at 82 minutes
- 32Smith RoweReplaced byElnenyat the 67 ‘protocol
- 19thGrandpaReplaced byBalogunat the 88 ‘protocol
- 9LacazetteReplaced byNketiahat the 79 ‘protocol
- 17thCédric Soares
End of the game, Slavia Prague 0, Arsenal 4.
The second half ends, Slavia Prague 0, Arsenal 4.
Foul by Stanislav Tecl (Slavia Prague).
Pablo Marí (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Arsenal. Folarin Balogun replaces Nicolas Pépé.
Missed attempt. Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal) right footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Prepared by Dani Ceballos.
Attempt blocked. Ondrej Lingr (Slavia Prague) right footed shot from the center of the box is blocked.
Corner, arsenal. The corner was scored by Tomás Holes.
Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Lukas Masopust (Slavia Prague) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal).
Substitution, Arsenal. Cédric Soares replaces Thomas Partey.
Substitution, Arsenal. Eddie Nketiah replaces Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitution, Arsenal. Gabriel Martinelli replaces Bukayo Saka.
Goal! Slavia Prague 0, Arsenal 4. Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) shot with his left foot from the center of the box into the lower left corner. Prepared by Nicolas Pépé.
Away from Arsenal. Bukayo Saka attempts a pass, but Mohamed Elneny is caught offside.
Foul by Lukas Masopust (Slavia Prague).
Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Slavia Prague. Stanislav Tecl replaces Jan Kuchta.
Foul by Jan Kuchta (Slavia Prague).