Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette scored twice in the first half and fellow striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang snatched a last-gasp third goal to secure a 3-1 win over Valencia in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday.
Frenchman Lacazette’s double at The Emirates put Arsenal in front after Mouctar Diakhaby had given the Spanish side an early lead and Aubameyang’s late strike gave the London side some breathing space for next week’s return at the Mestalla.
Diakhaby punished some limp Arsenal defending to head home in the 11th minute but the hosts responded with Lacazette starting and finishing a flowing move seven minutes later before giving his side the lead with a 25th minute header.
Arsenal had lost three consecutive Premier League games to drop to fifth place in the table with two games to go but manager Unai Emery has a special relationship with the Europa League having won it three times in a row with Sevilla.
He may have to lift the trophy for a fourth time if Arsenal are to upgrade to Europe’s elite Champions League competition next season, but the tie was still very much in the balance after Lacazette spurned two glorious second-half chances.
Aubameyang’s stoppage-time volley could prove crucial though, leaving Valencia with a tough task to avoid falling at the Europa League semi-final hurdle for the third time.
Lacazette double helps Arsenal beat Valencia 3-1