MX23RW : Tuesday, May 21 11:21:06| >> :600:14162754:14162754:
Nov 29, 2018 at 5.55pm UK at ​Stadion Vorskla im. Oleksiya Butov'skogo (Poltava)
VorsklaVorskla Poltava
FT(HT: 0-3)
Smith Rowe (11'), Ramsey (27' pen.), Willock (41')

Live Commentary: Vorskla Poltava 0-3 Arsenal - as it happened

Relive Arsenal's 3-0 win over Vorskla Poltava as the Gunners cruise to victory in Kiev, sealing top spot in Group E of the Europa League.
Live Commentary: Vorskla 0-3 Arsenal - as it happened
© Reuters

Arsenal secured top spot in Group E of the Europa League with a game to spare this evening courtesy of a routine 3-0 victory over Vorskla Poltava.

The hosts were already being forced to play more than 200 miles away from their own stadium, and their fortunes got even worse as Arsenal took the game beyond them inside the first half in Kiev.

Goals from Emile Smith Rowe, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Willock effectively wrapped up the result before the interval, sending Arsenal through to the last 32 as group winners.

Find out how all of the action unfolded courtesy of Sports Mole's minute-by-minute updates below.

Good evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for today's Europa League Group E clash between Vorskla Poltava and Arsenal!

This match is being played 211 miles away from Poltava in Kiev following a late change of venue due to political tensions in Ukraine, but the 'hosts' must put that aside for a game which they simply need to win. Arsenal can also secure top spot tonight, though, so it should be an intriguing encounter.

We will have a closer look at both teams a little later, but first let's check out the team news...

VORSKLA STARTING XI: Shust; Perduta, Dallku, Chesnakov, Artur; Sapai, Skliar, Sharpar, Rebenok; Kulach; Kolomoets

ARSENAL STARTING XI: Cech; Lichtsteiner, Jenkinson, Holding, Maitland-Niles; Guendouzi, Elneny; Willock, Ramsey, Smith Rowe; Nketiah

ARSENAL SUBS: Martinez, Osei-Tutu, Medley, Gilmour, Saka, Mkhitaryan, John-Jules

What can we make of those two teams, then?

Well, we'll start with the visitors, who named a host of academy products in their travelling party for this match while taking the opportunity to leave the majority of their senior players at home - understandably with two huge games coming up domestically.

However, there are still places for a few very recognisable names in that Arsenal XI, with Petr Cech and Aaron Ramsey among the players included in the starting XI.

Aaron Ramsey in action for Arsenal in the Europa League on October 25, 2018© Reuters

Stephan Lichtsteiner also provides plenty of experience from right-back, and he has overcome a recent hamstring injury to start this match.

Interestingly, it looks as though the forgotten man Carl Jenkinson will be starting at centre-back too, having spent the vast majority of his career at either right-back or left-back. He may need a few pointers throughout the night from Lichtsteiner regarding his position.

There are 10 changes in all from the weekend win over Bournemouth, with Rob Holding the only player to retain his place in the team - partially I'm sure due to a shortage of central defenders at the moment.

The impending returns of Laurent Koscielny and Mavropanos should help with that situation in the coming weeks, but for now Emery does not have the luxury of resting all of his central defenders.

Maitland-Niles makes up the back four on the left, and that defensive line will be protected by Guendouzi and Elneny, the latter of whom could be leaving the club in January but is handed a rare chance to impress tonight.

Further forward Emery has chosen the exciting young talents of Willock and Smith Rowe to flank Ramsey in the trio behind the striker, and Smith Rowe in particular has established himself in the manager's thinking, thanks largely to an impressive pre-season campaign.

Eddie Nketiah leads the line to make up a very inexperienced attacking quartet aside from Ramsey, and there aren't too many options to call upon from the bench either if Arsenal happen to find themselves in need of a goal.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the standout name, and he has experience of playing in Ukraine from his days with Metalurh Donetsk and Shakhtar. The winger scored twice against Vorskla for each of those clubs.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan in action for Arsenal on August 12, 2018© Reuters

Should Mkhitaryan feature tonight then he will be coming up against a player he was a teammate of at both of the Donetsk clubs, having played alongside Vorskla goalkeeper Bohdan Shust at that time.

Olexandr Chyzov was another of Mkhitaryan's teammates at Shakhtar, although like the Arsenal winger he only starts on the bench this evening.

Chyzov's exclusion is one of only two changes made by the hosts from their weekend defeat to Mariupol, with Dallku coming in at the heart of the defence for him.

The other switch sees Pavel Rebenok come into the side on the left flank, replacing Sakiv in a move which sees Artur drop back into a deeper position.

Indeed, it is the same position that Artur played against Qarabag in their last Europa League outing, and there are also only two changes from that team - one of which is Chizhov's absence again.

Yakubu started that game too, but he is replaced in the side by Sapai tonight, while Kolomoets leads the line once again.

It is certainly not a team sheet which will strike fear into this Arsenal side, though, and Vorskla were already up against it before the change of venue just 48 hours before kickoff.

It is a decision which has caused chaos for travelling fans, but perhaps the biggest losers will be Vorskla, who suddenly have to travel 211 miles for a home game - the equivalent of Arsenal being relocated to play a home game at Anfield.

There were concerns as recently as today that this match may not be able to go ahead after all, with Vorskla initially unable to confirm whether they would be able to take part in the game having been given just 48 hours' notice of the venue change.

The reason behind UEFA's decision was due to martial law being declared in some areas of the Ukraine amid rising tensions with Russia and, although Poltava was not one of the areas directly affected, Kharkiv was and that is where most fans - and the Arsenal team - would have had to fly in to.

It is certainly not an ideal situation for the hosts, but they must now put all the off-field uncertainty to one side and focus on what is quite simply a must-win game for them tonight.

Vorskla currently sit third in the group, but their situation is even more perilous than fourth-placed Qarabag in the sense that their fate is essentially out of their hands tonight. Even a victory may not be enough for them to stay in the competition, depending on what happens elsewhere.

Vorskla currently sit above Qarabag on goal difference rather than their head to head record, but if Sporting beat the Azerbaijani outfit tonight then Vorskla will be eliminated regardless of what happens here.

The only way Vorskla can take their hopes of reaching the last 32 into matchday six is by winning tonight and is Sporting fail to beat Qarabag - both of which look unlikely based on what we have seen so far.

Vorskla began what is only their second-ever European group stage campaign at the Emirates Stadium and were quickly given a taste of what to expect as they fell 4-0 behind against the Gunners.

Tonight's hosts did hit back with two consolations goals - making them the only team to score against Arsenal in this season's competition, incidentally - but they were then beaten by Sporting at home on matchday two.

Their first points arrived away to Qarabag with a 1-0 win on matchday three, but the Azerbaijani outfit got their own back with victory by the same scoreline in the reverse - a result which looks like being very costly for Vorskla.

It is their home form which has been the biggest disappointment so far considering they probably would have been relying on picking up points in front of their own fans - so the effective away trip to Kiev may actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise for them tonight.

It is still regarded as a home game, though, and excluding qualifiers Vorskla have never won at home in Europa, drawing one and losing five - including both this season.

Indeed, across all competitions Vorskla have now lost five of their last six home games, failing to score in four of those too.

Home and away they come into this match looking to end a three-game losing run which has seen them draw blanks in each game, and another defeat tonight would make it four on the bounce for the first time since October 2016.

Arsenal come into this match which much less pressure on their shoulders having already booked their place in the last 32, and the late change of formation may end up working out better for them than it does for the hosts.

The Gunners were facing a flight to Kharkiv and then a long bus journey to Poltava with their initial plans, but now they have been able to fly straight to Kiev ahead of this match.

Securing top spot is the main task for Arsenal this evening, and victory would be enough to do it thanks to a three-point lead over Sporting and their superior head-to-head record.

Indeed, even a draw - or defeat - would see them wrap up first place in Group E so long as Sporting do not better the result, so Unai Emery's side go into this match with their fate firmly in their own hands following three wins and a draw from their four games so far.

The Gunners kicked things off with three successive wins in Group E, starting against these very opponents back in September.

Away wins over Qarabag (3-0) and Sporting (1-0) followed before their 100% record ended at home to Sporting last time out - although the goalless draw at the Emirates Stadium was still enough to see them through to the last 32 with two games to spare.

Unsurprisingly, Arsenal are the top scorers in Group E as well as boasting the joint-best defence, and only Chelsea and Slavia Prague have conceded fewer in all of the group stages so far.

Indeed, Arsenal have kept clean sheets in each of their last three games since conceding twice against tonight's opposition, and they need only two more clean sheets to equal the Europa League record, which is currently held by Napoli and Salzburg.

Unai Emery gestures with two fingers during the Europa League group game between Arsenal and Vorskla Poltava on September 20, 2018© Reuters

Another clean sheet tonight would see Arsenal join a list of 11 other teams to have kept four in a row in this competition, and it would also be a third consecutive away clean sheet in Europe for the first time since a run of five on their way to the Champions League final in 2005-06.

The Gunners' overall away record in this competition stands at just two defeats from nine games, although one of those did come at this stage of the group stages last season.

Arsenal made it all the way to the semi-finals last season before being knocked out by eventual winners Atletico Madrid, and the second leg of that tie is their only defeat in their last 10 Europa League games.

It is their record across all competitions which is the most impressive at the moment, though, with Arsenal unbeaten in their last 17 outings under Emery since shaking off back-to-back defeats in his first two matches at the helm.

Four of the last six of that run have ended as draws, but Arsenal did return to winning ways at the weekend with a 2-1 triumph at Bournemouth - a result which lifted them to within one point of the top four ahead of a huge upcoming double-header against Tottenham and Manchester United.

That victory at the Vitality Stadium was already Arsenal's sixth away win of the season - just two short of their overall tally for the whole of last term across all competitions.

Josh King scores for Bournemouth against Arsenal in their Premier League clash on November 25, 2018.© Reuters

PREDICTION: Right, we're 10 minutes away from kickoff in Kiev, which means that it is time for a prediction!

The conditions may well play a part in this match - it is currently -4 in Kiev and is expected to plummet during the game too - but that is about the only advantage Vorskla seem to have having been shipped out of their usual home. Arsenal should come away with all three points tonight.

SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Vorskla 0-1 Arsenal

The reverse fixture in North London was, unsurprisingly, the only previous fixture between these two sides, and Arsenal made light work of Vorskla on that occasion - although none of their goalscorers from that night are playing here.

Aubameyang scored twice while Welbeck and Ozil also registered as Arsenal took a 4-0 lead, before goals from Chesnakov and Sharpar in the final 15 minutes salvaged some pride for the visitors.

That result also gave Arsenal a positive record against Ukrainian opposition having now won five, drawn two and lost four of their 11 previous meetings.

However, all four of those defeat came on Ukrainian soil and Arsenal are tonight looking for their first ever away win in this country.

The Gunners' previous five visits to these shores have yielded just one draw and those four defeats, with the most recent seeing them fall to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Shakhtar eight years ago.

Arsenal have lost to Shakhtar and Dynamo Kiev twice apiece, while their only previous point in this country came against Dynamo in September 2008.

Right, the players are out and we're almost ready to get going now. A reminder of the team news before we do get started...

VORSKLA STARTING XI: Shust; Perduta, Dallku, Chesnakov, Artur; Sapai, Skliar, Sharpar, Rebenok; Kulach; Kolomoets

ARSENAL STARTING XI: Cech; Lichtsteiner, Jenkinson, Holding, Maitland-Niles; Guendouzi, Elneny; Willock, Ramsey, Smith Rowe; Nketiah

KICKOFF:  Here we go, then! Vorskla get us underway in front of thousands and thousands of empty seats!

CHANCE!  An early chance for the home side as a free kick is clipped towards the near post and Kolomoets is able to dart in behind the defence. He has to wait for the ball to drop, though, and is under pressure when he blazes his effort over the crossbar.

This has been a good, positive start from Vorskla to this match. They are looking to get forward whenever possible and do seem to be the more likely to break the deadlock at the moment.

SAVE!  Decent chance for the hosts again as a corner makes its way all the way through to Chesnakov as the back post, but he gets his shot completely wrong. The effort turns into a pass back out wide for the winger and moments later Chesnakov has another shooting chance, and this time he draws the save from Cech.

UPDATE: There has been an early goal in the group's other game, with Sporting taking the lead against Qarabag - a result which would knock Vorskla out regardless and would leave Arsenal needing a win here to win the group tonight.

SAVE!  Shust is called into action for the first time tonight as Maitland-Niles cuts inside from the left and gets a shot away on his right, but it is routine for the Vorskla keeper.


GOAL!  Arsenal have the early breakthrough!

Some nice passing just aside the box panics the Vorskla defence a little and Nketiah is able to bundle his way through a couple of challenges. The ball then squirms away from him and the keeper is ready to collect it, but Artur takes it away from the keeper and inadvertently pokes it straight to Smith Rowe, who sweeps a simple finish into the empty net.

Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe celebrates opening the scoring against Vorskla Poltava on November 29, 2018© Reuters

Vorskla will be kicking themselves for that. They had made a bright start to this match but have shot themselves in the foot with that early goal.

UPDATE: More good news for Arsenal - and some potentially positive news for Vorskla too. Qarabag have levelled things up against Sporting in Azerbaijan.

The home side are putting plenty of effort into this game, but you can just tell that Arsenal are a class apart. They look cool and calm on and off the ball and have an air of control over this game.

SHOT!  The visitors win a free kick in a decent shooting position and Ramsey pulls rank to go for goal, but he fires it well off target.

UPDATE: Group E is hogging the goals tonight! Sporting have regained their advantage against Qarabag, although as things stand Arsenal will still win the group. Elsewhere, AC Milan have taken the lead against Dudelange and BATE have broken the deadlock against Vidi.

Smith Rowe and Maitland-Niles combine on the left side to send the latter into the box, but his final touch is too heavy and takes the ball into the arms of the keeper. is that opening goal from Smith Rowe - his third in just six games for the club.

PENALTY!  Arsenal win a penalty as Perduta brings down Ramsey inside the area!


GOAL!  The goalkeeper moves far too early and ends up on his knees as Ramsey - the man who won the penalty - tucks it away comfortably.

Arsenal in complete control now!

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey scores from the spot against Vorskla Poltava on November 29, 2018© Reuters

YELLOW CARD!  The first yellow of the night is shown to Sklyar for a couple of late challenges in quick succession.

Vorskla started this match quite brightly, but since then they have been comfortably second best. Arsenal are in total command at the moment.

YELLOW CARD!  Sharpar becomes the second booking of the evening for a trip on Willock.

SAVE!  The free kick is played quickly as Lichtsteiner slides a pass down the right channel for Willock. The youngster wraps his foot around it and stings the palms of Shust from a tight angle.

SHOT!  Half a chance for Arsenal as Nketiah almost gets behind the defence, and worries Shust enough to draw the keeper out of position. However, the Arsenal attack can only blast his effort high and wide of the near post.

Arsenal's youngsters will now have a chance to practice their game management, as they would only have themselves to blame if they let this one slip from here.

VORSKLA SUB: The hosts are forced into an early change here as Nicolas Careca replaces Sapai.

Nervy moment from Smith Rowe as he completely slices his attempted clearance from a free kick, which almost sends the ball squirming into the path of a Vorskla striker. Cech gathers gratefully, though.

UPDATE: Sporting have made it 3-1 against Qarabag in Azerbaijan, while there could be a shock in store elsewhere as Dudlange have equalised against AC Milan. A famous goal at the San Siro!


GOAL!  Game over before half time. Arsenal add a third through Willock, and it is so easy for the visitors.

Elneny plays the ball forward for the youngster, who is allowed to carry the ball forward and cut onto his right before calling a simple finish into the bottom corner. The defence didn't even try to make a challenge there!

Arsenal's Joe Willock celebrates scoring against Vorskla Poltava on November 29, 2018© Reuters

UPDATE: A good night for the British clubs so far - Celtic have just taken the lead against Rosenberg in Norway too.

SHOT!  Elneny is caught in possession by Kulach, who immediately races forward with the ball at his feet. However, there is no composure about him and he rushes his effort, slicing it horribly wide of the target.

Just one minute of added time at the end of this first half.


The first half comes to an end in Kiev, then, and Arsenal are in cruise control at the halfway stage.

It has been utter dominance from the Gunners, who have surely wrapped up all three points already in this match - and with it top spot in the group. The second half just looks like being a question of how many they might get.

Arsenal had to weather a bit of an early storm from the hosts, but they soon took control of the contest and broke the deadlock after just 11 minutes.

Emile Smith Rowe was the man who got it - his third goal in just six games for the club - as he clipped his finish into an empty net after a mixture of good work from Nketiah and calamitous defending had seen the ball break into his path.

The second goal came from the penalty spot shortly before the half-hour mark when Ramsey was brought down inside the area and then dusted himself off to take the spot kick himself.

The hosts complained that the Welshman stopped during the run-up, but the goalkeeper went far too early and Ramsey just stroked his finish into the opposite corner for a simple penalty.

All three of Arsenal's goals so far have been preventable from Vorskla's point of view, and there was more poor defending for the third as the defence failed to make a challenge on Willock.

The youngster was allowed to carry the ball forward and tuck his finish into the bottom corner without being confronted for his first ever Arsenal goal.

KICKOFF:  Arsenal get us back underway for the second half in Kiev!

UPDATE: Little old Dudelange from Luxembourg are winning at the San Siro! They have come from behind to take the lead against AC Milan!

It will be interesting to see how Arsenal approach this second half. There is no great need for Emery to rest players as none of this XI - with the exception of Holding perhaps - is likely to start the North London derby at the weekend, and the youngsters should now be seeing this as a chance to fill their boots.

So easy for Arsenal as Nketiah ducks inside from the right channel with a challenge being made again. He feed a low pass in towards Ramsey, but the offside flag is up.

CHANCE!  Big chance for the visitors as Willock steals the ball off Artur, who is having a bit of a horror show here. He feeds a pass to Nketiah who has space inside the area, but his effort is tame and saved by the keeper.

YELLOW CARD!  Holding picks up a yellow card for a swinging arm inside the Vorskla area.

SHOT!  A Vorskla cross is only cleared as far as Dallku, whose dipping first-time volley flies over the crossbar.

Vorskla would have come into this second half in damage limitation mode and perhaps hoping to win the half at best, so they will be relatively pleased as we approach the hour mark. Still nothing for Cech to deal with at the moment.

Artur tries to atone for a pretty poor personal performance by going for goal from a long way out, and it is no surprise to see it fly a long, long way off target.

ARSENAL SUB: Time for the first Arsenal change as Zech Medley replaces Holding on the hour mark.

Arsenal are just playing keep ball at the moment. It is a thankless task for the home side at the moment - they are just so clearly second best here.

Guendouzi breaks down the right flank and tries to whip a cross into the box, but he puts too much on it and it flies high over the box and out to safety on the opposite flank.



Confusion abound in Kiev as Arsenal think that they have added a fourth!

It is more dreadful defending as a Lichtsteiner cross into the box is left by everyone, with even the keeper looking disinterested as it flashed into the box. Smith Rowe is on the move, though, and tucks his finish into the roof of the net at the back post.

The Arsenal players celebrate, and scoreboard changes, but after a long wait the referee seems to rule it offside - although I'm not sure who against as Smith Rowe was certainly on.

ARSENAL SUB: Another change from the Gunners as Ramsey is replaced by Bakayo Saka.

CHANCE!  Big chance for Vorskla as Careca's shot hits Medley and falls kindly for Perduta inside the area, but Cech is alert and thwarts the full-back.

CHANCE!  Arsenal go straight up the other end and create a chance for Smith Rowe, who sees his effort turned past the post by Shust.

VORSKLA SUB: Change for the hosts as Ibrahim Kane replaces Kulach.

YELLOW CARD!  Kolomoets picks up a booking for the home side.

UPDATE: AC Milan may spare their blushes after all - they have levelled things up and then taken the lead against Dudelange at the San Siro, where it is 3-2 now. Elsewhere, Sporting are now 4-1 up against Qarabag, so they will be joining Arsenal in the last 32.

SAVE!  Saka makes his first impact on the game by breaking down the left before working a space to shoot, seeing his effort saved by the keeper.

UPDATE: Sporting are making light work of Qarabag - they now lead 5-1 in Azerbaijan, while AC Milan are 4-2 up and seem to have averted the shock.

ARSENAL SUB: A third change and another debut for the visitors as Charlie Gilmour replaces Guendouzi.

Almost a chance for Vorskla as Careca gets the ball caught under his feet and budges it to Rebenok, but his effort is blocked - this time by Jenkinson - before it can test Cech. The hosts want handball, but the officials say no.

Arsenal now have six teenagers on the pitch...

This has been as routine as Arsenal could have possibly hoped for tonight. They have cruised to victory with a young team and have not had to use any of the players who are likely to start the North London derby - with the possible exception of Holding. Emery will be satisfied with this.

There has been the chance for Arsenal to push on for more goals in the second half, but they have taken their foot off the pedal and just eased out the comfortable victory. In truth the scoreline has not been in doubt since the opening goal went in.

VORSKLA SUB: The final change fo the night sees Taras Sakiv replace Rebenok.

Just two minutes remaining in this match now, and I think both sides would take the final whistle if it went now. A miserable night for the hosts, more than 200 miles away from home.

CHANCE!  Good football from Arsenal as the ball is poked through from Saka to Willock, but Shust is alert and comes out to thwart the third goalscorer.

There will be four minutes of added time at the end of this match.

CHANCE!  Another late chance for Nketiah as he spins inside the area and gets a shot away, but his curling effort is a few yards wide.

CHANCE!  Vorskla suddenly create a chance of their own with Careca left in a really good position, but he curls his finish off target when he should have done better!


Easy as you like for Arsenal, who clinch top spot in Group E with a game to spare by cruising to victory over Vorskla despite travelling to Kiev with a youthful squad.

All of the goals came in the first half this evening as Emile Smith Rowe, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Willock took the game beyond the uprooted hosts, and Arsenal can now go into their final group game without any pressure on their shoulders whatsoever.

Right, that is all we have time for this evening!

Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's Europa League clash between Vorskla Poltava and Arsenal as the Gunners secure top spot in Group E comfortably. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.

We also have live coverage of Chelsea's match against PAOK at Stamford Bridge, which will kick off in around five minutes.

From me, though, it is goodbye for now!

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