Arsenal maintained their perfect record in the Europa League group stages with a narrow 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade at the Rajko Mitic Stadium on Thursday.
Red Star Belgrade 0 Arsenal 1
Borjan denies Walcott in opening stages
Boakye header comes back off the bar
Rodic dismissed late on for Zvezda
Giroud scores superb winner at the death
Zvezda came closest to scoring in the first half with a header from Richmond Boakye that came back off the crossbar, but they were reduced to 10 men in the closing stages when Milan Rodic picked up a second caution.
Arsene Wenger’s side made them pay with a late improvised winner from Olivier Giroud, which made it three victories from three in Group H.
The Premier League outfit enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the opening 20 minutes, but only threatened once in that time.
Theo Walcott found himself in acres of space on the right in the 15th minute after Jack Wilshere’s free-kick was cleared into his path, but his left-footed shot from eight yards out was kept out by Milan Borjan’s outstretched leg.
The hosts’ first chance arrived moments later when Nenad Krsticic picked up a weak clearance from Mohamed Elneny and drilled a low shot just wide of the right post from 25 yards out.
Both teams were guilty of stray passing in the first half, which led to limited opportunities in attack, although Boakye was a whisker away from breaking the deadlock on 26 minutes with a downward header that bounced up and off the crossbar from a corner.
Nemanja Radonjic went close again five minutes later after Ainsley Maitland-Niles failed to clear Slavoljub Srnic’s cross from the right, but Petr Cech did well to get down and save his volley at the back post.
The final chance of the first half saw Giroud loop a header over the back post from Elneny’s cross on the left in the 44th minute.
The second half got off to a frenetic start, with Giroud reacting slowly to Walcott’s miscued shot on 48 minutes which he directed straight up into the air and Borjan collected gratefully.
Borjan was tested just two minutes later when Reiss Nelson got around his marker on the right and forced the keeper to parry his shot away at the near post.
Cech was fortunate to see Krsticic direct a powerful header straight at him from Filip Stojkovic’s cross on the right in the 52nd minute, and the Czech keeper had to be alert to turn Slavoljub Srnic’s shot behind two minutes later after the striker had pounced on a poor backpass from Elneny.
The intensity dropped in the final 20 minutes, but a second yellow card for Rodic 10 minutes from time left Vladan Milojevic’s men at a disadvantage, and the visitors capitalised soon afterwards.
Wilshere and Walcott combined well on the edge of the box to find Giroud, who managed to divert the ball home smartly with his back towards goal and secure all three points for the Gunners.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) October 19, 2017