Theo Walcott scored twice as a much-changed Arsenal beat Bate Borisov in the Europa League to make it two wins from two in Group H. Jack Wilshere was excellent and set up a Walcott chance which hit the post before assisting the forward’s close-range opener. Bate keeper Denis Scherbitski then inexplicably passed the ball straight to Walcott to slot home a second. Rob Holding scored his first Arsenal goal, turning home Per Mertesacker’s flick-on from Walcott’s corner to seemingly put the game past Bate after 25 minutes.
But Mirko Ivanic pulled one back for the Belarusians after one of their few real attacks in the first half with an excellent 10-yard header from Aleksey Rios’ cross. Arsenal restored their three-goal advantage after the break as Olivier Giroud scored his 100th Arsenal goal from the spot after a soft penalty award against Vitali Gayduchik, who did not appear to make much contact with Shkodran Mustafi. Bate did pull another back when Mikhail Gordeychuk slammed home from close range after David Ospina parried Ivanic’s header. And Arsenal – who had looked comfortable up to that point – were hanging on at times in the end. Aleksandr Volodko could have set up an anxious finale but he fired a shot wide from inside the box.
The Gunners are top of Group H on six points with Red Star Belgrade second on four points after they beat Cologne, who have lost both matches, 1-0 thanks to Richmond Boakye’s goal. Youngsters Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson at wing-back, and Joseph Willock in central midfield, all had solid performances – albeit against weak opposition. Nelson, 17 – who has already made four appearances this season – was particularly impressive. Teenagers Marcus McGuane and Edward Nketiah came on for their debuts in the final 10 minutes. Walcott – who has not started a Premier League game this season – could have scored three or four goals. His first major opportunity came when Wilshere slipped him through and he hit the post from 10 yards out.