Arsenal 4-1 Rapid Vienna: Gunners secure much-needed win in front of 2,000 supporters with Alexandre Lacazette among the scorers as Mikel Arteta’s side maintain 100 per cent Europa League record
On the night supporters returned, the only shame was there were not more inside the Emirates to witness some of the football served up by Arsenal.
No wonder Mikel Arteta has been so excited about the prospect of having fans back if this is the impact even just a little support can have on his team.
Home has not been the happiest of places for Arsenal lately, losing their last three Emirates league games.
Arsenal treated 2,000 supporters at the Emirates to an impressive showing in their Europa League win over Rapid Vienna
Alexandre Lacazette, Pablo Mari (R) and Eddie Nketiah all found the target in the first half as Mikel Arteta’s men put on a show
Nketiah was afforded two efforts from close range after a flowing move from the hosts and finally tucked in their third goal
ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Runarsson 7; Cedric 7.5, Mustafi 7 (Chambers , Mari 7.5, Kolasinac 7.5; Maitland-Niles 8, Elneny 7.5 (Ceballos 63, 7); Pepe 8.5, Lacazette 8 (Smith Rowe 63, 7), Nelson 7.5 (Willian 63, 6); Nketiah 8 (Balogun 81, 6)
Subs not used: Leno, Macey, Tierney, Saka, Holding, Willock, Azeez
Scorers: Lacazette 10, Mari 17, Nketiah 44
Booked: Elneny, Mustafi
Manager: Mikel Arteta 8
Referee: Radu Petrescu 7
Man of the match: Nicolas Pepe
Their place in the knockout stages was already safe and they only needed a point to secure Group B top spot.
Arsenal could easily have coasted through the night. But instead they put on a show to maintain their 100 per cent record in Group B after five games.
And all four of Arsenal’s goals from Alexandre Lacazette, fit-again Pablo Mari, Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith Rowe were certainly deserving of an even bigger audience than the 2000 allowed back in for the first game here with a crowd since March.
After being cheered onto the pitch and going over to applaud those sat socially-distanced in the East Stand’s lower tiers before kick-off, Arsenal seemed visibly lifted by their backing which also came from the North Bank.
The crowd filled up just a fraction of Arsenal’s 60,260-seater stadium but made far more of an impact than expected on the noise levels and their team as they ran through their repertoire including their anti-Tottenham chants ahead of Sunday’s north London derby.
Arteta’s team, entirely changed from the Wolves defeat, responded, playing with pace, purpose and pinning Rapid Vienna back for most of the game.
Stand-in skipper Lacazette capped their dominant opening with a sublime 30-yard strike that swerved and dipped, deceiving Richard Strebinger in the visitor’s goal.
Seven minutes later came a big moment for Mari. An ankle injury that required surgery had limited him to just three appearances since his January arrival, initially on loan.
Lacazette collected possession from distance and opted to let fly with a powerful shot that rocketed into the top right corner
The Arsenal frontman wheeled away in celebration and the supporters at the ground greeted the goal with welcome noise
Mari marked his long-awaited first-team return for Arsenal with a clever header after deftly flicking Reiss Nelson’s cross home
And it was clear what it meant to the defender when he headed in his first Arsenal goal from Reiss Nelson’s corner.
Lacazette struck the post before Ainsley Maitland-Niles fluffed his finish after a solo run.
Instead the honour of scoring the next goal befitting of the occasion went to Nketiah who nodded in at the second attempt after a delightful team move full of first-time passes and telepathic movement.
Kohya Kitagawa was subjected to some pantomime boos after pulling a goal back just after the restart, despite the defiant efforts of Runar Runarsson and Sead Kolasinac to keep out three Rapid – literally – efforts.
Nketiah nodded in the hosts’ third of the evening to cap off a superb first-half showing and defy Richard Strebinger’s heroics
Koya Kitagawa hauled a consolation goal for Rapid Vienna after tucking home following a strong parry from Alex Runarsson
But that was just a brief interruption to Arsenal’s dominance. They remained comfortable and should have ended the night with far more goals than they did.
Arteta knew it, spinning on his heels in frustration when Pepe was guilty of overcomplicating things in area, not long after Lacazette and Pepe had frustrated Strebinger.
But his side were not to be denied a fourth and rightfully had the final say, exciting youngster Emile Smith Rowe scoring Arsenal’s fourth just three minutes after coming off the bench.
Emile Smith Rowe was introduced as a second half substitute and tucked in Arsenal’s fourth following another incisive move
Arteta watched on from the touchline as his side put Rapid Vienna to the sword and extended their perfect form in Group B
The fans present were separated by social distancing measures and were also subjected to temperature checks outside
Sportsmail’s DANIEL DAVIS provided live text coverage of the clash at the Emirates..