‘Emotional’ return for Koscielny as Arsenal win in Europa League
Gunners captain - who has been missing through injury since May - gets 72 minutes under his belt as Unai Emery's side beat FK Qarabag thanks to goal from Alexandre Lacazette
14 December, 2018 — By Steve Barnett
ARSENAL 1 (Lacazette, 16)
FK QARABAG 0
LAURENT Koscielny made what he described as an “emotional” return to first-team action last night (Thursday) against FK Qarabag in the Europa League.
The Arsenal captain got 72 minutes under his belt having not featured since rupturing his achilles in the semi-final of the same competition against Atletico Madrid last May.
Unai Emery’s side had already qualified for the knockout round as Group E winners so the match at the Emirates Stadium had somewhat of a friendly feel to it. And it was the two surprise names on the team sheet who combined to score the winner – with Alexandre Lacazette latching on to Mesut Ozil’s pass to score the only goal of the game early in the first half.
Afterwards Koscielny admitted it was a long, hard road to recovery, but said his “smile is back” and that his “season starts now”.
“Yes, it was an important day for me,” he told Arsenal.com. “It was the end of my rehab, so I am very happy to play tonight with my team, for this club, and to enjoy it with them on the pitch.
“It was very emotional because you remember the first day when I was injured, the 3rd of May, and now we are on the 13th of December, and you have some flashbacks in your head about different periods you had during your rehab.
“I met a lot of people who helped me a lot, and so I’m very proud to know them now. There were some difficult moments during this period, but now I think I’m more calm and focused on what I want, and physically I’m OK.”
On the pitch Koscielny barely had to break sweat as Arsenal won 1-0 to stretch their unbeaten run to 22 games in all competitions. Academy prospect Bukayo Sako, 17, made his first full debut, and looked impressive despite spurning a handful of chances to become the club’s youngest European goalscorer, while Eddie Nketiah saw a late header chalked off by a flag for offside.
In the end Lacazette’s crisp, cool finish across the keeper proved the only goal on a frosty night. As group winners, Arsenal will now avoid the four best-placed teams dropping down from the Champions League in the draw for the last 32, which takes place on Monday at noon.
ARSENAL: Martinez , Jenkinson, Sokratis, Koscielny (Monreal, 72), Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Willock, Nketiah, Ozil (Gilmour, 83), Saka, Lacazette (Medley, 63).
Substitutes not used: Iliev, Guendouzi, John-Jules, Mkhitaryan.
FK QARABAG: Vagner, Medvedev, Rzezniczak (Ozobic, 85), Sadygov, Huseynov, Guerrier, Slavchev, Garayev, Michel (Abdullayev, 61), Madatov (Quintana, 75), Zoubir.
Substitutes not used: Mammadov, Agolli, Diniyev, Mahammadaliyev.