Arsenal made it two wins from two in the Europa League with a comprehensive 4-2 victory over BATE Borisov, strengthening their position atop of Group H.

The Gunners raced to an early lead through Theo Walcott’s brace, whereas goals from Rob Holding and Oliver Giroud added to the score.

BATE Borisov battled to remain competitive with a couple of goals, separated by the half-time break, but wouldn’t have enough in the end to topple Arsenal in an open affair.

Arsène Wenger remained true to his word when presenting an experienced side headlined by the likes of Giroud and Walcott, but there was also still room for Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles to get starts of their own.

It was Walcott who came closest to breaking the deadlock as early as the 8th minute, receiving Jack Wilshere’s through ball on the turn before poking a shot with the outside of his foot onto the post.

The two Englishmen continued to cause BATE Borisov numerous problems within the first ten minutes, with Wilshere combining well with Giroud before dinking a cross in Walcott’s direction, as the winger made no mistake this time to nod in the opener.

With the hosts composing themselves, their playmaker, Mirko Ivanić, was keen to bite back with a speculative effort on the half-volley ten minutes later, as it skipped just wide of David Ospina’s near-post.

Chaos was to ensue soon after, however, as Denis Scherbitskiy gifted Walcott with a poor pass on the edge of the area prior to the Englishman punishing the goalkeeper with a clinical finish into the far corner in the 23rd minute.

The Gunners would add greater comfort to their dominance just minutes later through Rob Holding’s goal, meeting Per Mertesacker’s glancing header and wrong-footing the keeper with a touch from close range.

Ivanić lifted the spirits for the hosts in what was turning out to be an absolute thriller of a game, heading past Ospina to pull the score back to 3-1 in the 28th minute.

Walcott would come inches away from grabbing himself a first-half hat-trick in the 42nd minute, as Scherbitskiy denied the 28-year-old with a fingertip save, meanwhile Holding neared his second from the subsequent corner when hitting the post with an instinctive swoop at the ball inside the area.

The North Londoners entered the second period on top, but they may feel very grateful towards the referee for spotting a supposed tug of Shkodran Mustafi’s shirt inside the box, as Giroud nabbed his 100th goal in Arsenal colours from the 12-yard-mark.

Ospina had to be alert in the 52nd minute, as an in-swinging free-kick required his intervention on its way towards goal, lifting the noise inside the Borisov Arena again.

BATE Borisov began to grow and would go on to pinch another goal back in the 66th minute, as Holding lost his footing to allow Ivanić to head at goal freely, opening up the opportunity for Mikhail Gordeichuk to thrash home on the rebound.

The Belarussian champions could’ve complicated matters further for Arsenal in the 70th minute through Alyaksandr Valadzko, who couldn’t steer a first-time shot on target from a prime position inside the area.

Walcott would go on to squander another chance for his treble in the 83rd minute, dragging a shot wide with others open and calling for the pass.

There’d be no need for a fifth goal, however, as Arsenal coasted in the final ten minutes to a 4-2 victory away from home.

By Patrick Ribeiro

Player Ratings:
David Ospina (6) – Shkodran Mustafi (6), Per Mertesacker (6), Rob Holding (6) – Reiss Nelson (7), Joe Willock (6), Mohamed Elneny (6), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (6) – Jack Wilshere (8) – Theo Walcott (7), Olivier Giroud (7)

Subs: Marcus McGuane (6), Eddie Nketiah (N/A)

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