Arsenal 3 FC Koln 1
Córdoba 9, Kolasniac 49, Alexis 67, Bellerin 81

It may be unfamiliar to Arsenal, but seventeen years after their last participation in this competition, the Gunners were once again in Europa League action as FC Koln arrived at the Emirates stadium. Making a mockery of their official 2,900 ticket allocation, the Bundesliga visitors were supported by close to their 20,000 army who had travelled from Germany, and after an absence of 25 years, all were desperate not to miss the side’s return to European action. Soon they were roaring in response to Jhon Córdoba’ opener after David Ospina made a hash of a clearance. Olivier Giroud saw a succession of towering headers go either off target or collected by Timo Horn. However the German keeper could do nothing to prevent substitute Sead Kolasinac firing in four minutes after the break. Alexis then produced a brilliant stunner to give Arsenal the lead, with Hector Bellerin getting Arsenal’s third to cap off an eventual night in North London.

The kick off time was put back by an hour due to safety and security concerns. Mostly in good spirits, the Koln supporters gathered outside the Emirates and when the majority without tickets sought to enter the stadium, fights with the Arsenal stewards and officials lowered the atmosphere of the night. In what appeared to be a club response, Arsenal fans were being seats away from their normal seats to allow for the majority of the 20,000 travelling supporters. Both the upper and lower tiers of the Clock End were full of Koln supporters and although that made for an excellent atmosphere, UEFA will want to know how matters descended into this.

Arsene Wenger and his players were kept alert of the situation, and at one point, it seemed entirely plausible that the game would be cancelled.

“I thought they would never take a gamble to play this game when I saw the images. We waited patiently in our dressing room but we had all kinds of plans to think about: do we play tomorrow? Next week? It was all kind of speculation that we had to analyse. In the end, at some stage, I thought they would not play the game,” acknowledged Wenger.

The Arsenal boss made nine changes from the side which beat Bournemouth in the Premier League, retaining only Bellerin and Nacho Monreal in the starting eleven. After a slow start, Alexis shone and his stunning strike was just the tonic that Wenger needed.

“I think Sanchez is still running after his best form. He is a fantastic football player but physically he has just come back. But he has it in his locker to do something special, which he did.

“We want to do well in all the best competitions and I had an experienced team today, even though I made nine changes. They are all top-class players. There is no hierarchy in the squad.”

Kolasinac made an almost instant impact having come for Rob Holding after the break. The Bosnian struck a venomous shot to level on the night which Horn couldn’t get to. After Alexis made it 2-1, late on, Bellerin was on hand to add gloss to the scoreline finishing after a sweeping move. The Spain striker spoke of Arsenal’s first involvement in the Europa League

” It is a new competition for us so we had to set the tone, ” said Bellerin. ” We think we are one of the best teams in the competition so we have to show that on the pitch.
“I am very happy with the victory. We were ready to play at 20:05 BST but these things happen. We started a bit with cold feet but after that it just worked,” he added.

Wenger will have been pleased with the win and response after going a goal don, and will now shift the focus to Sunday’s cross capital crunch match at Chelsea.