Europa League, Last 32, Stadio Karaiskaki - Olympiacos 0 Arsenal 1 (Lacazette 81')
Arsenal will take a lead and an away goal back to the Emirates for the second leg of this Round of 32 Europa League tie, after a tight 1-0 victory over Olympiacos in the Karaiskakis Stadium.
The visitors were under immediate pressure as Olympiacos missed two good chances in the first five minutes. They eventually settled though and missed a great chance of their own in the 20th minute when Alexandre Lacazette drilled a low shot wide with the goal gaping.
A cagey second half in wet conditions burst into life in the last ten minutes. Lacazette tapped home the winning goal after some excellent work by Bukayo Saka on the left. Arsenal could have doubled their lead a few minutes later, when Sokratis Papastathopoulos headed onto the crossbar from a corner.
Mikel Arteta’s team will now be favourites to advance into the last 32. Olympiakos did force a number of saves out of Bernd Leno in the first half but will need to find much more incisive finishing in London to have any chance of retrieving the tie.
Can Arsenal go all the way this year? Their 4-1 defeat by Chelsea in the final in Baku last year was a miserable experience, but the Gunners look to have the potential to try and avenge that this season. Arteta’s team are unbeaten in 2020 and Bayern Munich are the only other team in Europe to have won at Olympiacos this year. They will be one of the favourites to lift the title in Gdansk in May.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
Arsenal’s left back turned in a precocious display tonight, advancing forward with menace and going past Olympiacos defenders effortlessly. Saka is only 18 years old, but so assured already that a glittering future at club and international level looks almost certain. His calm certainty in setting up Lacazette for the winning goal was further evidence of a serious rising talent.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno 7; Mustafi 6, Sokratis 7, David Luiz 7, Saka 8; Guendouzi 6, Xhaka 6; Martinelli 6, Willock 7, Aubameyang 6; Lacazette 7
SUBS: Maitland-Niles 6, Ceballos 6, Pepe 6
3’ CHANCE! A long cross to the back post finds Balbuena, who takes it first time on the volley from 15 yards out. Leno palms the shot away and Arsenal scramble the ball clear.
4’ CHANCE! Balbuena curls a lovely cross in to the back post. Masouras has a free header from six yards out, but puts it over the bar. What a miss! Seconds earlier, El-Arabi almost got clear through the middle from a long ball but couldn't control it.
20’ CHANCE! Oh this is a big miss. Lovely interplay from Willock and Lacazette almost gets MArtinelli in at the back post. The ball is slightly over hit, but Martinelli retrieves it and pulls it back to Lacazette. From just seven yards he drills a low shot wide of the post.
74’ EXCELLENT SAVE! Balbuena whips the free kick low and to the bottom corner. It's a horrible one to deal with but Leno saves it as it bounces, and gathers the loose ball before El-Arabi can slide in and score.
81’ GOAL! Olympiacos 0 Arsenal 1 (Lacazette 81) Brilliant on the break from Arsenal. Aubameyang latches on to a ball in the bottom left corner. He then cuts it back to Saka, who was butrsting into the penalty area. Saka takes a touch, plays a delicious ball across the six yard box that cuts out all of the Olympiacos defenders and Lacazette taps home.
85’ WHAT A SAVE! Arsenal break quickly from a corner, and it's implausibly five on two. Xhaka brilliantly eads the charge and they work it to Lacazette, whose stinging shot from 18 yards is turned wide by Sa.
86’ OFF THE BAR! Sokratis plants his header onto the cross bar, and from the rebound Mustafi guides a header just wide of the post.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their first nine matches in 2020.
Olympiacos have won only 1 of their last 12 knockout games in Europe.