We’ll take a precious two-goal lead to Spain for the decisive leg of our Europa League semi-final.
Alex Lacazette struck twice in quick succession to help us come from behind - the third straight year he’s scored at this stage of the competition. And Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a priceless third in the final moments.
Valencia started considerably better than Napoli had in our last Europa League tie here, and they drew first blood when Mouctar Diakhaby headed in from close range after Rodrigo nodded a corner back across goal.
That was the away goal we were determined not to concede, but we responded magnificently.
Lacazette’s through-ball sent Aubameyang racing through the centre, and he kept his head to check back, draw two defenders and the goalkeeper, and prod the ball into his strike partner’s path for an easy finish.
Eight minutes later we completed the turnaround. This time Granit Xhaka was the provider, clipping a diagonal ball into the box that Lacazette met powerfully. Neto got a hand to the downward header but could only tip the ball onto his post, and it crossed the line before he could claw it away.
Having scored with his left foot and his head, Lacazette squandered a golden chance to complete a perfect hat-trick when Neto denied him from close range. And the France striker also miscued a header that would have given us some breathing space.
Valencia had chances too - Petr Cech rushing out to deny substitute Kevin Gameiro - but we held the upper hand, and we got a deserved third when Aubameyang converted at the far post.
THREE THINGS WE NOTICED
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
This win means we’ll take a two-goal lead to Spain for next week’s second leg.
The other semi-final is perfectly poised after Eintracht Frankfurt and Chelsea drew 1-1 in Germany.
Unai Emery made four changes for the visit of Valencia, and reverted to a back three.
Cech came in for Bernd Leno - to make possibly his final appearance in England - and the defence in front of him was bolstered by Laurent Koscielny, starting virtually a year to the day since his ruptured an Achilles tendon in our last Europa League semi-final against a Spanish side.
Elsewhere, Matteo Guendouzi was preferred to Lucas Torreira in midfield, Mesut Ozil replaced Alex Iwobi and Aubameyang was paired up front with Lacazette.
Our next Premier League game is a must-win if we want to qualify for the Champions League via the more traditional route.
Brighton are the visitors to Emirates Stadium on Sunday for our last home game of the season.
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