Gunners are comfortable Europa League winners.

Unai Emery delighted with Arsenal youngsters following Frankfurt win

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  • 2019-09-20 04:10:09 3 months ago
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Head coach Unai Emery praised the performances of his young players as Arsenal opened their Europa League campaign with a fine win at 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Gunners boss made seven changes to the side who were held to a disappointing draw at Watford – and they paid off as the visitors ran out 3-0 victors at the Commerzbank Arena.

Joe Willock and Bukayo Saka both got on the scoresheet, the latter also claiming two assists as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wrapped up the result at the death.

Arsenal's players celebrate with Saka
Arsenal's players celebrate with Saka (Michael Probst/AP)

Both sides wasted a host of chances in an end-to-end contest as Frankfurt suffered their first European home defeat since 2006 – the late sending off of midfielder Dominik Kohr only adding to the disappointment.

But for Emery, it was vindication he has shown in Arsenal's academy products since walking through the door at the Emirates Stadium, and the Spaniard was delighted with both Willock and Saka – as well as Emile Smith Rowe.

"Their performance tonight was good and they deserve it," he said.

"Maybe with his (Saka's) goal, with his performance, but also in the match taking confidence, finishing really strongly physically.

"And also with Emile, after his injury tonight he played for the first time this season and he worked well. Willock also, progressively he was feeling better and with a good performance."

Aston Villa are next up for Arsenal when the newly-promoted side travel to north London on Sunday.

The Arsenal starting line-up is likely to revert back to something similar to the Watford game but Emery revealed two injured players are stepping up their return.

Kieran Tierney is yet to play for the club since arriving from Celtic this summer due to a groin problem, while Hector Bellerin has been missing for nine months with a serious knee injury.

"Rob Holding is very close to us and tomorrow Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin are going to play in the under-23s," Emery said, with Holding part of the travelling party to Frankfurt having overcome his own knee problem.

While Arsenal reached the Europa League final last season only to lose to Chelsea, Frankfurt were beaten on penalties by the Blues in the last four.

Manager Adi Hutter has had to deal with losing his three attacking talents, Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Sebastien Haller over the summer – the trio having scored 56 of the club's 90 goals last season.

But, despite profligacy from new recruits Bas Dost and Andre Silva, the Austrian head coach was pleased with his side's performance, if not the final result.

"It's a bitter defeat for us," he said.

"Because the performance does not reflect that result. When it was still 1-0 for Arsenal, we tried to score the equaliser but then conceded another one.

"The important thing is for us to create chances, I have seen enough of those. A goal can help open some doors, give you a boost, that did not happen today."

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Unai Emery delighted with Arsenal youngsters following Frankfurt win

Result: Mason Greenwood scores as Manchester United overcome Astana

Mason Greenwood scored his first senior goal for Manchester United as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side recorded a 1-0 win over Astana in their Europa League Group L opener on Thursday night.

The Red Devils struggled to open up an ultra-defensive Astana for long periods of the contest, but 17-year-old Greenwood came up with a brilliant finish in the 73rd minute to decide the European clash.

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood celebrates scoring against Astana in the Europa League on September 19, 2019© Reuters

Solskjaer made nine changes from the team that overcame Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday, with youngsters Tahith Chong, Greenwood and Angel Gomes coming into the XI.

Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Fred were also handed rare starts for the Red Devils as Solskjaer shuffled his pack at Old Trafford ahead of Sunday's trip to West Ham United in the Premier League.

United came close to making the breakthrough in the third minute when Fred struck one from distance, but the midfielder's powerful attempt clipped the crossbar before dropping behind for a goal kick.

Marcus Rashford then had a free kick deflected just wide before Astana goalkeeper Nenad Eric had to palm away an attempt from Chong with the Red Devils making a fast start to the European tie.

Rashford had a golden chance to make the breakthrough in the 13th minute when the ball fell kindly for the England international following a corner, but Eric was on hand to make a brilliant stop.

Manchester United's Mason Greenwood in action with Astana's Ivan Maevski in the Europa League on September 19, 2019© Reuters

Greenwood was next to come close in the 16th minute as the 17-year-old just missed the far post with a powerful strike following a smart flick from Rashford, who was perhaps a surprise starter in the final third when considering his volume of football in the early stages of the season.

Rashford had another opportunity in the 20th minute when he met a clever pass from Rojo, but once again the away side's 37-year-old goalkeeper was on hand to make the save.

Solskjaer's team continued to dominate the ball as the half progressed, but the opportunities did dry up in the latter stages of the first period with Astana happy enough to defend their own penalty box.

The visitors had a half-chance of their own in the 37th minute when a breakaway led to Roman Murtazayev having a clear strike on goal, but the 26-year-old's weak attempt was easily saved by Sergio Romero, who was also enjoying his first minutes of the 2019-20 campaign.

Rashford had the final attempt of the half as he looked to pick out the back of the net with a clever finish, but the attacker's effort was saved by Eric, and the two teams headed down the tunnel at 0-0.

Manchester United's Phil Jones in action with Astana's Roman Murtazayev in the Europa League on September 19, 2019© Reuters

United had another huge chance to take the lead early in the second period when Rojo flashed a brilliant cross towards the far post, but neither Greenwood nor Chong could make contact as Astana, who brought on two substitutes at the break, survived a very dangerous moment.

The Red Devils continued to force the issue as the half developed, and the corner count was rising as Astana were forced to deal with wave after wave of attacks from the English giants.

Rashford sent a dipping free kick just over the crossbar in the 55th minute, while Rojo's driving runs forward and dangerous deliveries were becoming a key feature of the home side's work.

Fred was next to come close for the hosts with the Brazilian seeing his curling free kick kept out by Eric as the score stayed level heading into the final 30 minutes of action at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer made two changes in the 68th minute with Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard entering the field for Chong and Gomes, who both impressed on their full debuts for the club.

Manchester United's Axel Tuanzebe in action with Astana's Dorin Rotariu in the Europa League on September 19, 2019© Reuters

The pattern of the match did not change as the hosts continued to dominate the possession, but Astana were defending the width of their own box in effective fashion.

United finally made the breakthrough in the 73rd minute, however, when Greenwood worked some space inside the Astana box before picking out the back of the net with a clever finish through the goalkeeper's legs for his first senior goal.

Eric made a wonderful save to keep out a powerful Rojo drive as the home side looked for a second, with Lingard also rattling the post from distance before Dalot missed from close range.

The 2016-17 Europa League winners did not find a second on home soil, but it mattered little in terms of the final result with Greenwood's goal enough to secure all three points.

Next up for United is a trip to West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon, while Astana will continue their league campaign away to Zhetysu on the same day.

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): Romero; Dalot, Tuanzebe, Jones, Rojo (Young 79'); Matic, Fred; Chong (Mata 68'), Gomes (Lingard 68'), Greenwood; Rashford

ASTANA (4-4-2): Eric; Rukavina, Tomasevic, Postnikov, Shomko; Tomasov, Maevski, Simunovic (Logvinenko 46'), Sigurjonsson; Rotariu (Mubele 82'), Murtazayev (Janga 46')

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Sheffield United’s Prince Abdullah defends Bin Ladens over club links

Eyebrows were raised at Bramall Lane when Sheffield United’s new owner, Prince Abdullah bin Musaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, said he would be happy for the Bin Laden family to invest in the club.

“I get offended when the Bin Laden family is given a bad name,” said Prince Abdullah. “Every family may have one bad person, one black sheep but they are very respectable.”

Although Bin Laden Construction is an internationally respected construction company and the influential Saudi family behind it disowned their extremist relative Osama Bin Laden in 1994, that resonant surname remains inextricably linked with the late al‑Qaida terrorist who ordered the 11 September attacks on New York’s Twin Towers in 2001.

Prince Abdullah, though, seemed frustrated by the name’s enduring association with Islamic extremism and revealed that the Bin Laden family had previously shown interest in buying shares in Sheffield United from the former co-owner Kevin McCabe.

“I have not done business with them in the past but I will be very happy to do business with them,” Prince Abdullah said. “The Bin Laden family’s not a disgraced name or something I should hide. They were going to buy Kevin McCabe’s shares. They did due diligence but decided not to buy. I don’t see it is as a big deal. When I see the Bin Laden family as a dirty name I get really offended.”

It was all part of a 45-minute introduction to the start of a new era at one of the world’s oldest football clubs as Prince Abdullah and his son-in-law Prince Musaad bin Khalid bin Musaad Al Saud flanked the team’s manager, Chris Wilder, in the Bramall Lane media room.

After winning an acrimonious high court battle to wrest full control from McCabe – previously the holder of a 50% stake – Prince Abdullah has installed the 26-year-old Prince Musaad as his new chairman. Moreover the new outright owner stressed that he had no intention of selling the club on to circling American investors and offered Wilder, who seemed unusually tentative, his absolute support.

“If it was about money, I would sell the club right now,” Prince Abdullah said. “My main focus is to bring in sponsors from Saudi right now.”

He acknowledged Wilder’s achievement in lifting United from League One to the Premier League in three seasons. “We are blessed to have him. The results and the way we play our beautiful football speaks for itself. I have good harmony with Chris.”

For his part, Wilder said he was “100% positive about the future” and had been in regular contact with Prince Abdullah during his partnership with McCabe. “There’s only been a couple of times I’ve expressed my frustrations towards Prince Abdullah and Kevin,” he said. “In the majority of times they’ve allowed me to get on with my job.”

Wilder appeared a little more diffident about the introduction of the new Belgian technical director, Jan Van Winckel. “Anything done to improve club, I’m open to,” he said. “But I’m a hands on manager; my style is I have the big decisions to make. I’m full of confidence it will work with Jan.”

Prince Abdullah – formerly general president of youth welfare in Riyadh, having accrued his wealth in paper production – had previously rarely been spotted at Bramall Lane but was adamant he watched every match on television, routinely muting the sound so as not to be upset by critical commentators. Prince Musaad, though, will now at the club on a near daily basis.

“We will work hard to make the fans proud,” said Prince Abdullah. “I hope in five years’ time everything will be much better and we will be with Chris Wilder, taking us to a bigger and better place.”

The owner maintained his was a “private investment” unrelated to his country’s current attempts to extend influence and present a modernised face to the world by increased involvement in major sporting events.

Under the terms of the high court ruling Prince Abdullah will have to buy Sheffield United’s property assets – a £40m portfolio including the stadium, adjacent hotel and training ground – by next July. Although he was vague on how he intended to fund such purchases he said finding the finance would “not be a problem”.

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