Granit Xhaka scored the winner as Arsenal edged closer to the last 16 of the Europa League with a narrow win over PSV Eindhoven at Emirates Stadium. The result leaves Mikel Arteta’s side five points clear at the top of Group A after they maintained their 100% record.
It was also the Gunners’ eighth successive victory in all competitions and they more than merited it in the rearranged contest that was originally scheduled to be played on 15 September but was postponed because of “severe limitations on police resources” following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka had the pick of Arsenal’s opportunities, but some errant finishing and the performance of PSV’s Argentine goalkeeper Walter Benitez made for a nervy evening. However, Swiss international Xhaka drove a low effort into the bottom left corner from Takehiro Tomiyasu’s cross to finally break the visitor’s resistance.
Arsenal will confirm their progression to the knockout stage as group winners if they claim at least a point in the reverse fixture in the Netherlands next week. The arrival of Ruud van Nistelrooy’s free-scoring side at the Emirates provided Arsenal with their stiffest test in this season’s Europa League.
But Arteta will be satisfied after seeing his side pass it with flying colours, with the only disappointment being that the scoreline did not truly reflect their overall dominance. Aside from two speculative Xavi Simons efforts, PSV offered very little going forward with reported Manchester United target Cody Gakpo a peripheral figure throughout.
Instead of taking the game to their Premier League opponents, the visitors were penned back and spent much of the encounter attempting to stem the flow of Arsenal attacks. Eddie Nketiah had six of the Gunners’ 25 efforts on goal, failing to hit the target once, while Xhaka pulled a chance wide on his favoured left foot from an arguably easier position in the first half than the chance he converted.
Saka saw two powerful efforts superbly repelled by Benitez, while Jesus was also wasteful in front of goal. The Brazilian prodded a weak left-foot effort into the arms of Benitez after weaving past two defenders and saw the former Nice goalkeeper save another goal bound effort with his foot, although by then Xhaka had thankfully intervened.