Arsenal qualified for the Europa League knockout stage with two group games to spare after Granit Xhaka’s second-half goal secured a 1-0 win over PSV Eindhoven at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.
Victory in the rescheduled A match, postponed last month following the death of Queen Elizabeth, means Arsenal will finish in the top two in Group A having maintained its perfect start after four games.
The group winner secures an automatic last-16 spot while the runner-up faces one of the third-placed teams dropping down from the Champions League in a two-legged playoff tie in February.
“We had really good moments where we dominated against a really good side. We lacked that final pass or shot but we’re happy to win the game and we are qualified which is the first step,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said.
“The difference between finishing first and second is big and we want to get the job done (next week).
Arsenal visits PSV next Thursday in the reverse fixture needing a point to guarantee top spot in the group.
The host endured a frustrating first half as it dominated, and had nine shots to PSV’s one, but struggled to create clear opportunities and did not trouble goalkeeper Walter Benitez.
Arsenal also made a slow start to the second half before Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus all came close to breaking the deadlock, with Xhaka finally giving them a deserved lead in the 71st minute.
Substitute Martin Odegaard played the ball wide right to Takehiro Tomiyasu who found an unmarked Xhaka and the Swiss midfielder swung a half-volley past Benitez for his third goal of the season in all competitions.
Arsenal sits top with 12 points, five more than second-placed PSV, with the win leaving it on the cusp of sealing top spot.
“We had chance after chance and we didn’t have the luck to score earlier but we had the passion to keep the ball, keep creating the chances and I think we deserved the win,” Xhaka said.
“It gives us confidence. Everything is going well at the moment but for us it is not a surprise, we’re doing a lot of work... We wanted to go through and are very happy.”
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