MX23RW : Thursday, January 17 11:44:02

Result: Alexandre Lacazette wins it for experimental Arsenal

Arsenal beat Azerbaijani champions Qarabag FK 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium to conclude their Europa League group campaign with their unbeaten record intact.

Alexandre Lacazette scored what proved to be the only goal of the game as Arsenal beat Qarabag FK 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday night to extend their unbeaten run to 22 matches.

In front of a sparse crowd, surprise starter Lacazette fired home 16 minutes into the match to earn the Gunners their fifth win in six Group E outings.

With top spot and a place in the last 32 already secured before kickoff, an experimental Arsenal side struggled to get out of first gear against the Azerbaijani champions on a largely forgettable evening.

Alexandre Lacazette celebrates Arsenal's opening goal in their Europa League tie with Qarabag FK on December 13, 2018© Reuters

Unai Emery made nine changes on the back of the 1-0 win over Huddersfield Town here four days ago that kept his side's momentum going, bringing in Laurent Koscielny for his first appearance in seven months and Mesut Ozil for his first outing in a month.

It was one of those retained from the Huddersfield game that opened the scoring for the Gunners, with Lacazette powering the ball across Vagner into the far corner of the net once slipped in by Ozil.

That was Lacazette's first goal in this season's Europa League at the third attempt, while also marking the first assist claimed by Ozil since the October win over Leicester City.

Lacazette's moment of quality aside, though, the first half offered little in the way of entertainment as both sides showed little urgency.

Debutant Bukayo Saka cut inside and curled a deflected shot on target, which Vagner did well to push aside, but that would prove to be it in terms of notable first-half action.

Unai Emery greets Laurent Koscielny on the sidelines during Arsenal's Europa League tie with Qarabag FK on December 13, 2018© Reuters

Wilde-Donald Guerrier headed over the bar from a rare Qarabag opportunity on the hour, while Carl Jenkinson saw a close-range shot blocked in front of goal.

Emery had a number of youngsters on the bench for this concluding Group E match, watched by a third-full Emirates Stadium, but he held off from using any of them until 25 minutes from the end when Zech Medley was brought on for his home debut.

That alteration came moments after Qarabag sub Araz Abdullayev miscued a shot from Abdellah Zoubir's cutback 10 yards from goal in the visitors' best opening of the night.

Medley's arrival meant Ainsley Maitland-Niles pushing into a more advanced position, and the versatile wideman set up Saka for a good chance 20 minutes from time - the youngster seeing his shot deflect narrowly wide, before his next attempt from further back was gathered by Vagner.

Emery replaced Koscielny - the only starter to boast a 100% pass-completion rate - for the final quarter of the match as Arsenal continued to go through the motions.

Eddie Nketiah, who played a big part in what turned out to be the winning goal with his tackle high up the pitch to turn over possession, had a swooping header correctly ruled out for offside in the final 15 minutes.

There was also a late chance for Saka to become Arsenal's youngest scorer in Europe at just 17 years old, but he blasted his close-range shot right in Vagner's face.

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Jenkinson, Sokratis, Koscielny (Monreal 72'), Maitland-Niles; Elneny, Willock; Saka, Ozil (Gilmour 83'), Nketiah; Lacazette (Medley 63')

QARABAG (3-5-2): Vagner; Rzezniczak (Ozobic 85'), Sadiqov, Huseynov; Medvedev, Slavchev, Qarayev, Michel (Abdullayev 61'), Guerrier; Madatov (Quintana 75'), Zoubir

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Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe celebrates opening the scoring against Vorskla Poltava on November 29, 2018
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Liverpool22183150104057
2Manchester CityMan City22172359174253
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs22160646222448
4Chelsea22145340172347
5Arsenal22125546321441
6Manchester UnitedMan Utd22125544321241
7Watford229583232032
8Leicester CityLeicester229492625131
9West Ham UnitedWest Ham229493032-231
10Everton228683331230
11Wolverhampton WanderersWolves228592328-529
12Bournemouth2283113142-1127
13Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2275102430-626
14Crystal Palace2264122028-822
15Burnley2263132343-2021
16Southampton2247112339-1619
17Cardiff CityCardiff2254131941-2219
18Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2246121631-1518
19Fulham2235142049-2914
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2225151337-2411

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