Young Arsenal Side Blanks Vorskla in Relocated Europa League Match

Arsenal maintains a three-point lead atop its Europa League group after the win.
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A youthful Arsenal team beat Vorskla Poltava 3-0 in Ukraine to maintain a three-point lead at the top of their Europa League group with one game to go.

With the Gunners already through to the knockout stage, Unai Emery fielded an experimental lineup, with four teenagers starting and only Rob Holding keeping his place from the win at Bournemouth on Sunday.

The match was moved to Kiev at late notice after the Ukrainian president imposed martial law in some areas of the country earlier this week, making for a strange atmosphere at a sparsely populated Olimpiskiy Stadium.

Emile Smith-Rowe continued to showcase his potential with his third goal of the season after 10 minutes, finishing into an empty net after Eddie Nketiah had been foiled by Vorskla goalkeeper Bogdan Shust.

Igor Perduta's clumsy foul on Aaron Ramsey allowed the Welshman to double Arsenal's lead from the penalty spot as they took control of the game against opposition who offered little resistance.

It was 3-0 before halftime as the impressive Joe Willock teased Ardin Dallku before finding the corner of Shust's net with a precise finish for his first goal in senior football.

Arsenal thought they had a fourth midway through the second half as Smith-Rowe profited from some very suspect Vorskla defending, but the goal was ruled out in confusing circumstances and the score stayed at 3-0.

Vorskla offered a bit more attacking threat as Emery started to ring the changes in the second half, and Petr Cech was called into action to deny Perduta. That was the closest the hosts came as Arsenal saw out the match to extend their unbeaten run to 18 matches. 

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Key Talking Point

Given the number of changes and the quality of the opposition, this match didn't teach us much about the Arsenal of the present - but it did suggest that the Arsenal of the future might be a very exciting one to watch.

Smith-Rowe and Willock were both particularly impressive as they scored first half goals and although Nketiah couldn't add his own name to the scoresheet, he showed flashes of the potential Arsenal fans have been raving about.

Emery also named a bench containing only two senior players and handed second half debuts to Zech Medley, Bukayo Saka and Charlie Gilmour.

With Ashley Maitland-Niles also offering a constant threat down the left wing, Matteo Guendouzi giving another good performance in central midfield and Rob Holding keeping another clean sheet, there are plenty of reasons for Gunners fans to be optimistic about their youngsters.

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Player Ratings

Starting XI: Cech (6); Lichtsteiner (6), Holding (6), Jenkinson (6), Maitland-Niles (7); Guendouzi (7), Ramsey (7), Elneny (7); Willock (8*), Nketiah (6), Smith-Rowe (8)

Substitutes: Medley (6), Saka (6), Gilmour (6)

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Star Man

Smith-Rowe continued to justify the hype, but it was another member of Arsenal's young forward line who caught the eye. Willock's pace and skill had the Vorskla defenders retreating and his first Arsenal goal was a very confident finish.

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Worst Player

Given the opportunities that fell his way, you could argue that Nketiah should have scored - his reaction after the first goal certainly seemed to indicate that he thought so. His performance was lively, but as a striker he will be judged on the chances he takes - and those he squanders.

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Player Ratings

Starting XI: Shust (5); Perduta (5), Dallku (4), Chesnakov (5), Artur (5); Sapai (6), Sklyar (5), Sharpar (5), Rebenok (5); Kulach (6); Kolomoets (6)

Substitutes: Careca (6), Kane (6), Sakiv (N/A)

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Looking Ahead

Arsenal return to Premier League action on Sunday with the first north London derby of the season against Tottenham, before facing Manchester United at Old Trafford three days later.

The Gunners' final Group E game is at home to Qarabag in three weeks' time. Vorskla, who were eliminated by tonight's result, finish their campaign away at Sporting.