Three years to the month since his darkest moment in an Arsenal shirt, Granit Xhaka produced a wonder strike to seal the Gunners’ progression to the UEFA Europa League knockouts, overcoming a stubborn PSV side 1-0, Abbeylivenetwork.com reports.
PSV manager Ruud Van Nistelrooy faced no side more often in his playing career than Arsenal, with a dozen clashes against the Gunners – but with none of those being played at the Emirates Stadium, this was a new experience. His side initially looked overawed in North London, but after settling into the game, PSV’s Xavi Simons sent a promising shot into the stands after breaking away just before the half-hour mark to give Arsenal a wake-up call.
Ever dangerous for Arsenal in domestic affairs this term, Gabriel Jesus shouldered much pressure to deliver. However, he was well-marshalled throughout the first half by PSV centre-back partners Armando Obispo and André Ramalho. In turn, Arsenal managed just a single shot on target before half time, though there would be a significant warning shot just before the interval, as Fábio Vieira put a free kick the wrong side of goal.
Arsenal began the second half with much more purpose, and Jesus received a deft pass inside the area, but was sufficiently marshalled to ensure that his close-range attempt was weak and easily smothered by Walter Benítez. The Brazilian was suitably fired up, and an even better chance came his way on the hour mark, when he cut inside his marker and unleashed a rocket inside the box towards the bottom left corner only for Benítez to deny him again with an excellent save.
It always seemed as though an experienced head would prevail, and PSV’s resistance was finally broken in the 70th minute. Bukayo Saka, Thomas Partey, and Martin Ødegaard exchanged passes on the right flank, with the latter finding Granit Xhaka on the edge of the box, and like a Swiss watch, he timed his shot on the half-volley to perfection, finding the bottom-left corner of Benítez’s net for his first Europa League goal since March 2018.
Several further chances fell Arsenal’s way, as they ended the evening firmly on top, with Saka particularly unlucky to stay off the scoresheet, after Benítez parried the England international’s late shot from a narrow angle. With a perfect 12 points for the Gunners in Group A, they now need only a point from next week’s return clash to seal top spot and a place in the competition’s round of 16.