Arsenal inch closer to Europa final

Arsenal inch closer to Europa final
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal during their Europa League semi-final 1st leg against Valencia.
LONDON, May 3 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 5/3/2019 11:20:07 AM IST

Alexandre Lacazette scored twice as Arsenal came from behind to beat Valencia 3-1 at home in the first leg of the Europa League semifinal.

Mouctar Diakhaby headed Valencia into an early lead at Emirates Stadium on Thursday but within 14 minutes the Gunners had turned the tie around.

Lacazette first finished off a swift counter-attack involving Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang before heading home Granit Xhaka’s cross to put Unai Emery’s men in front.

And the Spaniard, a three-time winner of the competition with Sevilla, will take a two-goal lead back to former club Valencia for next week’s second leg after Aubameyang struck late on.

Arsenal trailed in the 11th minute, having already failed to heed a warning from a Dani Parejo set piece that was eventually turned over the crossbar by Ezequiel Garay.

His defensive colleague Diakhaby would not make the same mistake, nodding in at the back post when Rodrigo Moreno headed Parejo’s corner back across goal, but Valencia’s advantage did not last long.

Ozil and Lacazette combined well to send Aubameyang through with the Gabon international superbly teeing up his strike partner to tuck home.

And Arsenal took the lead in the 25th minute, with Lacazette’s downward header from a fine left-wing Xhaka cross parried into his own goal by Neto, via the post.

Parejo’s free-kick flew over the crossbar while Lacazette somehow missed a golden chance to seal his hat-trick by failing to connect with Aubameyang’s centre.

Lacazette wasted an even clearer opportunity in the 68th minute, firing straight at Neto from close-range and again failing to beat the goalkeeper on the rebound.

Petr Cech denied Kevin Gameiro and the striker volleyed over as Valencia launched a late rally.

It was Arsenal which struck a potentially decisive blow, though. Neto kept out Lacazette brilliantly but was unable to stop Aubameyang from turning home Sead Kolasinac’s deep cross.

Chelsea held 

1-1 by Frankfurt 

Chelsea set a Europa League record of 16 successive matches unbeaten on Thursday with 1-1 semi-final first leg draw at Eintracht Frankfurt thanks to a Pedro equaliser on the stroke of half time.

Serbian Luka Jovic had put the hosts ahead after 23 minutes.

The draw meant Chelsea, Europa League winners in 2013, surpassed Atletico Madrid’s 2011-12 unbeaten run.

They took time to find their stride, however, with Jovic stooping to head past the outstretched Kepa Arrizabalaga off a cross from compatriot Filip Kostic with a goal that raised the decibels in a stadium famed for its atmosphere.

Jovic, firmly on the radar of top clubs across Europe, has now scored nine goals in the competition and 26 in all this season.

Frankfurt failed to press home their advantage, however, running out of energy in a second half dominated by the visitors with Jorginho dictating play.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek led the fightback, blasting just wide in the 42nd minute and then nimbly beating defenders before feeding the ball through to Spanish winger Pedro who hammered in a low left-foot shot.

Chelsea were far livelier after the break, with the hosts having another close escape when David Luiz rattled the crossbar from a dipping free kick.

Frankfurt captain David Abraham headed over the bar while unmarked with six minutes remaining after an optimistic appeal for a penalty came to nothing.

The second leg is at Stamford Bridge next Thursday, when the positions in the Premier League will also come into clearer focus before the final weekend.


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