Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice as we eased to a comfortable victory against Vorskla in our opening game of the Europa League group stage.
The big news prior to kick off was the inclusion of Bernd Leno for his debut and Lucas Torreira named in the team for his first start, and much intrigue surrounded that pair.
In truth, the German goalkeeper didn’t have much to do in the first half but always looked comfortable in possession – and one scooped pass over Vorskla attacker Vladyslav Kulach spoke of his confidence.
Torreira, meanwhile, was at the heart of the action, buzzing around and harrying the visitors every time they touched the ball. The Uruguayan was also tasked with the set-pieces and his delivery was impressive – particularly a free kick that he whipped around the wall but into the side netting, and a corner than Sokratis headed wide.
But the opening 45 minutes took some time to get going, but when it did, it was worth the wait as we took the lead with a thrilling counter-attack led by Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The Armenian international fed Alex Iwobi and his ball across the face of the Vorskla defence to the onrushing Aubameyang was well-weighted for the striker to hit it first time into the far corner.
Iwobi and Mkhitaryan were increasingly influential, and they combined nicely before the half was out as the latter struck a stinging shot that Vorskla goalkeeper Bohdan Shust palmed over the bar.
Aubameyang also hit the post before the interval, but it didn’t take long to extend ourt advantage after the restart as Welbeck headed in from a Mkhitaryan cross.
Welbeck would go so close to adding another moments later after good work from Aubameyang, before the Gabon international volleyed over the bar as we continued to turn the screw.
But Aubameyang was not to be denied and, moments before he was substituted, he combined well with the excellent Mkhitaryan and curled the ball beyond Shust and into the bottom corner.
Mesut Ozil, off the bench to replace Auba, added a fourth after reacting quickest to poke home Stephan Lichsteiner’s ball to the far post, and while the visitors pulled a couple of goals back near the end, they were nothing more than consolations.
Our Europa League campaign is up and running, and in some style.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Find out how the match unfolded and get all the standout stats in our play-by-play commentary
WHAT IT MEANS
We host Everton on Sunday at Emirates Stadium, looking to secure our fourth win in a row and maintain an unbeaten home record against the Toffees that dates back to January 1996.
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