Pepe stunner helps shot-shy Gunners see off Irish minnows Dundalk
Defensive errors, a little luck and something special from Arsenal's £72m winger seals 3-0 Europa League win in an unconvincing night at the Emirates Stadium
29 October, 2020 — By Steve Barnett
Europa League: Group B
ARSENAL 3 (Nketiah 42, Willock 44, Pepe 46)
THREE goals in six minutes either side of half-time eventually earned Arsenal the win over Dundalk tonight (Thursday) in the Europa League.
Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Nicolas Pepe came up with the goals at the Emirates Stadium, but the 3-0 scoreline put a shine on what was, in truth, an unconvincing performance.
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta made 10 changes from the side that lost 1-0 against Leicester City on Sunday in the Premier League.
But even the excuse of a makeshift line-up couldn’t justify why the north Londoners only managed six shots on target against Dundalk. Or why it took defensive errors and luck to finally see off the Irish minnows.
Arteta, however, only wanted to focus on the positives after the game. “We made it look easy because we were very disciplined, took it seriously and were at it from the beginning,” said the Spaniard.
“We made a lot of changes, gave opportunities to other players and I think they performed well.
“We have a large squad and I wanted to give opportunities to everybody. They showed they were prepared when I need them.
“Sometimes it is about the quality, sometimes it is about the tactical plan for the game. I am very pleased with the performance tonight.
“After losing the way we lost against Leicester it was painful. It took us a few days to react but it’s good to respond straight away with a win.”
It took 42 minutes, and some Sunday league defending, for Arsenal to break the deadlock. Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers made a mess of a punch from a corner, leaving Nketiah to tap home from close-range.
It always felt like once the deadlock was broken, the floodgates would open. And so it proved.
The Gunners managed to double their lead before the break when Pepe’s blocked shot turned into a perfect pass for Willock, who took full advantage with a composed finish.
The hosts needed just 31 seconds to add to their lead in the second-half. Pepe collected a pass on the edge of the area, rolled the ball away from a defender with his left foot and then curled a sublime shot into the top corner with his weaker right foot.
With the game wrapped up, the Gunners took their foot off the gas and settled for a 3-0 victory that leaves them top of Group B with two wins out of two.
Arsenal: Runarsson, Cedric, Mustafi (Ceballos, 61), Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Elneny, Xhaka (Tierney, 74), Pepe (Willian, 62), Nelson, Nketiah (Balogun, 74)
Substitutes not used: Leno, Hein, Bellerin, Gabriel, Saka, Lacazette, Aubameyang, Partey
Dundalk: Rogers, Gartland, Boyle, Cleary (Hoare, 53), Mountney, Murray (Sloggett, 45), Shields (Gannon, 62), McEleney (Flores, 53), Dummigan, Hoban, Duffy (Colovic, 70)
Substitutes not used: McCarey, Corcoran, Leahy, Oduwa, Kelly, McMillan