Olympiakos 0 Arsenal 1
Lacazette 81

Alexandre Lacazette’s late strike sealed an impressive Arsenal win over Olympiakos in Athens to give the Gunners a first leg advantage in their Europa League last 32. Lacazette who had been going through a barren nine game drought until his Premier League goal in the 4-0 rout of Newcastle last week-end, netted his second goal in as many games. Shkodran Mustafi’s 60 yard pass out from the deep was smartly kept in by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang deep on the left wing. Bukayo Saka surged forward to receive Aubameyang’s pass and as he looked up, Saka’s cross went beyond the outstretched arms of Malheiro de Sa for Lacazette to tap in to the empty net.

Arsenal’s France striker saw a first half chance go wide of the upright from eight yards after Gabriel Martinelli did well to keep the ball in play to cross from the byline. Lacazette had another chance when he seemed in on goal, until a robust challenge from Ousseynou Ba denied the Arsenal man.

Conditions in the Greek capital were challenging on a wet night among a hostile environment, but Olympiakos who were unbeaten at home this season couldn’t get anything to show for the efforts. Mathieu Valbuena’s free kick was kept out by Bernd Leno and when Youseff El-Arabi threatened,, Leno was again alert to make another save.

Dani Ceballos replaced Martinelli on the hour mark and his involvement at both ends of the pitch added bite against a determined Greek side. Aubameyang seemed stranded on the flanks and a swap with Lacazette looked a good option. Mikel Arteta hoover stuck with the positioning and that bore fruit when Lacazette pounced on 81 minutes to give the Gunners the edge ahead of the second leg at the Emirates next Thursday.

Arteta accepted that his side had successfully come through a big test of character.

“Absolutely. It is tough to come to a stadium like this, away in Europe, and get a win and there were a few lessons in the game for us, and some great things for our development as a team. The first 10 to 15 minutes we suffered because we didn’t do the things that we talked about, and didn’t execute the simple things,” he said.

The result was Arsenal’s third consecutive clean sheet and that points to how much the defence has tightened up.

“I was telling them that they have to enjoy defending as well, it is a big part of the game and like tonight, if you give simple balls away, you better run back and get that ball back as quick as possible. They played with a big heart, I saw a lot of big effort and instead of splitting it joins together really quickly.”

There was special praise for Saka after his ninth assist of the season which Arteta was keen to recognise as well as the overall game of his talented 18 year old..

“I’m really pleased with the way he’s developed. And I’m really pleased with the way he’s handling these situations because there’s a lot of highlight on him at the moment, but he’s still really humble. He’s still as keen to meet with my assistant, willing to improve. He’s a great kid and he makes big decisions in the final third. He’s not someone who hides. He’s got the vision and the ability to execute when the spaces are really tight. That’s a gift.”

The Gunners face another tough challenge when they host Everton in a crucial  Premier League clash on Sunday.