Granit Xhaka goal means Europa League progress for Arsenal
Granit Xhaka scored the game’s only goal as Arsenal beat PSV Eindhoven to progress to the final stages of the Europa League.
The Gunners are top of the Premier League and their domestic form has been replicated in Europe, with Xhaka’s second-half strike earning them a 1-0 win to make it four wins from four in Group A.
The next task for Mikel Arteta’s side will be to secure a result in Holland next week to ensure they qualify as group winners and earn a bye to the knockout stages.
It has now been 46 days since Arsenal failed to win a match – a streak longer than that of outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss – as Xhaka became the first Arsenal player to score a home goal against the PSV.
This match was initially postponed after the Queen’s death and the Manchester City clash which would have seen the Premier League top two face off had to make way this time around.
Arsenal want to return to the Champions League and their strong start to the Premier League campaign means they have a good chance of doing so – but for much of the game they lacked the ruthlessness in front of goal that their women’s side have shown defeating the reigning women’s champions. Lyon defending champion 5-1 less than 24 hours earlier.
Ruud van Nistelrooy came up against Arsenal as Manchester United’s main striker at a time when both sides were untouchable at the top of the Premier League.
He was named PSV boss in the summer and has certainly added his goalscoring prowess, with his side scoring 17 goals in the four games before their trip to the Emirates Stadium.
His last-gasp missed penalty was the closest Arsenal had lost in their ‘Invincible’ season and it would be a van Nistelrooy-led United who ended that run at 49 matches the following year.
Here though, his side were second best throughout, but the hosts couldn’t find a breakthrough in a frustrating first half, with Gabriel Jesus firing a wide shot and Fabio Vieira closing in with a free-kick as Bukayo Saka was once again the standout artist for Arteta’s Side.
Such is the reliance on Saka’s contribution, he was retained in the starting XI having missed just 179 minutes of football for Arsenal before the game.
There was more of an edge at home after the restart, Saka forcing a smart save from Walter Benitez, who then did well to fend off a strike from Jesus.
Eddie Nketiah fired a shot from just wide as Arteta dispatched Thomas Partey and captain Martin Odegaard with a quarter of the game remaining.
It would be their fellow midfielder who finally found the back of the net, however, Xhaka’s half-volley off Takehiro Tomiyasu’s cross planted just out of Benitez’s reach.
Xhaka has already scored as many goals this season as the previous three combined and, sporting the captain’s armband, showed again that he is now a favorite with the Gunners fans with whom he once had such a rocky relationship.
There was a moment of concern for Arsenal and England when Saka fell injured, but he persevered as the hosts saw through the knockout stages to seal their place in the knockout stages.