UEFA Europa League
Result: BATE Borisov 2-4 Arsenal
Date: 28 September 2017
Venue: Borisov Arena
An under-strength Arsenal beat BATE Borisov 4-2 in an entertaining encounter at the Borisov Arena on Thursday to cement their position as Europa League Group H frontrunners.
Arsène Wenger rung the changes to his Arsenal side that had beaten West Brom 2-0, with Mohamed Elneny and Shkodran Mustafi the only players to keep their starting places.
Theo Walcott came within inches of opening the scoring just seven minutes in, hitting the post after Jack Wilshere did well to spot his run in the box and pick him out.
Less than two minutes later, Wilshere floated in a ball towards Walcott from the left. BATE goalkeeper Denis Scherbitski got something on the former Southampton youngster’s header, but left him an easy tap-in on the rebound to put Arsenal in front.
They were unlucky not to score again in the 17th minute as Wilshere put the ball in the back of the net, but Walcott was contentiously ruled to have been offside in the build-up.
However, the visitors were gifted a goal in the 22nd minute when Scherbitski passed the ball straight to Walcott — who fired it past him again.
It only took three minutes before Arsenal added a third. A header from a Walcott corner fell into the path of Rob Holding — whose touch diverted the ball into the goal.
In the 28th minute, Mirko Ivanić got on the end of an Aleksei Rios cross from the right and headed the ball past David Ospina. All of a sudden, BATE were back in the game.
Nevertheless, Arsenal continued to dominate. Holding nearly had his second goal following a scramble in the box after a corner. However, his shot clattered into Scherbitski’s right post.
The Gunners went into the break with a well-deserved 3-1 lead.
In the 48th minute, referee Daniel Stefanski awarded Arsenal a soft penalty — apparently for a shirt pull on Mustafi from Stanislav Dragun, for which he was yellow carded.
Olivier Giroud stepped up for the spot-kick and dispatched it, scoring his 100th Arsenal goal.
Nemanja Milunović then followed Dragun into the book for a pull-back on Walcott in the 64th minute.
However, Mikhail Gordeichuk handed BATE a lifeline three minutes later as he blasted the ball past Ospina off the rebound from an Ivanić header.
However, BATE were unable to capitalise on their new-found momentum and their frustration began to show. In the 87th minute, Ivanić became the third player to pick up a yellow card in the game after cynically tripping Giroud.
That was to be the last key moment of the match as Arsenal held on for the victory. Wenger will be delighted at having given key exposure to youngsters, while still comfortably claiming all three points in Belarus.