JACK WILSHERE and Theo Walcott sparkled for Arsenal out in Belarus as they helped the Gunners to a 4-2 Europa League win away to BATE Borisov.
The two players sent out a stark reminder to boss Arsene Wenger of their talents as a youthful Arsenal navigated what looked a tricky tie on paper.
Olivier Giroud, himself far from a regular this season after the signing of Alexandre Lacazette, bagged his 100th goal for the club in a pleasing victory.
It followed their opening Europa League win, 3-1 against Cologne.
Arsenal came close to going ahead in the seventh minute when Jack Wilshere played a delightful ball that split the BATE defence to Theo Walcott.
The England man, playing a rare role supporting Giroud in attack, saw his effort crash off the post and clear.
But Walcott was not to be denied less than two minutes later.
Great interplay between Wilshere and Giroud saw the former clip the ball in to Walcott who headed it through the fingertips of BATE keeper and tapped it home to make sure.
Arsenal were in complete control, and the only surprise was that it took the Gunners until the 22nd minute to extend their lead – and it was a gift.
BATE keeper Denis Scherbitski received a pass back, then hit it straight out to Walcott 15 yards from goal, and he drilled it back past him.
Three minutes later and Arsenal had hit the back of the net yet again.
Walcott swung a corner in that Per Mertesacker flicked on and his centre-back partner Rob Holding prodded over the line.
But credit to BATE, who went from being totally shell-shocked to pulling a goal back.
Alexei Rios swung in a delicious cross and Montenegrin international Mirko Ivanic planted a fine header into the roof of the net.
One of the main talking points of the first half came when Joseph Willock, on a rare start for Arsenal in central midfield, appeared to be slapped in the face by Nemanja Milunovic.
Incredibly, despite the protestations of Wenger on the byline, referee Daniel Stefanski didn’t even see it as a yellow-card offence.
Three minutes before the break Walcott was denied his hat-trick with a fine fingertip save from Scherbitski.
INTERACTIVE STATS – CLICK on the categories to find out how the teams fared
And from the resulting corner, the ball fell to Holding who saw his swing at goal rebound back off the post.
Two minutes into the second half, Arsenal went 4-1 up, and it was a huge helping hand from the referee.
As a corner was swung in, Shkodran Mustafi looked to be struggling to escape his marker’s attentions, but the referee halted play and pointed to the spot.
Dragun was booked for something we aren’t quite sure of, and Giroud stroked home the penalty for his 100th Arsenal goal.
INTERACTIVE LINE-UPS– CLICK on a player’s number below to see their stats
But in true Europa League fashion, BATE fire back again to narrow the score to just two goals.
Holding’s attempted tackle in the penalty area rebounded up, Mertesacker stumbled and Mikhail Gordeichuk slammed the ball into the roof of the net.
On the 76th minute, Marcus McGuane came on for his Arsenal debut to replace Reiss Nelson.
The 18-year-old scored twice last time out for the Arsenal U23 side against their Everton counterparts.
The Gunners managed to play out the rest of the game with a few scares to record their second Europa League victory – their first appearance in the competition since season 1999/200.
What They Said
Theo Walcott: “I felt we pressed well, attacked very well as a unit, obviously we are disappointed to concede sloppy goals as we did.
“Obviously being a forward you want to score as many goals as you can. There was a chance I could have taken a penalty, but Olivier [Giroud] was on 99 goals, so he took the penalty.”
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