Valencia 2-4 Arsenal (3-7 agg): Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scores hat-trick as Unai Emery eases past his former side to book Gunners’ place in the Europa League final
- Arsenal have booked their place in the Europa League final after beating Valencia 7-3 over two legs
- The Spanish side got off to a brilliant start after striker Kevin Gamiero tapped in after just 11 minutes
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang answered back six minutes later to give Arsenal a crucial away goal on the night
- Alexandre Lacazette then doubled Arsenal’s lead by showing great strength to turn and score in second half
- Gamiero made it 2-2 to again spark hopes of a huge European comeback with Valencia needing three more
- Aubameyang put the tie out of reach of Valencia by scoring his seventh and eighth goal in 11 games
In this week of tall stories with twisted tails it was Arsenal who defied their stereotype simply refused to be rattled.
It was Unai Emery and his players who held their nerve. It was the lethal frontman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who led the way with his first hat-trick for the club and his strike partner Alexandre Lacazette backed him up.
At the back they suffered. No-one more than young Ainsley Maitland-Niles but they refused to yield and the 21-year-old wing-back won his personal struggle to cross for the third.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick to see off Valencia and send Arsenal into the Europa League final
The Premier League side celebrate winning their semi-final after beating Valencia 7-3 on aggregate on Thursday evening
Unai Emery’s men jump up at down on the pitch at the final whistle as they celebrate with the away fans at the Mestalla
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring his brace against Valencia which helps send Arsenal to Europa League final
The Gunners striker managed to get in between two Valencia defenders to score the visitors’ third and his second
Valencia goalkeeper Neto is unable to keep the strike out as Aubameyang watches his shot sneak in at the near post
Aubameyang (right) celebrates scoring Arsenal’s third goal with Ainsley Maitland-Niles (left) during the second half
VALENCIA: (4-4-2) Neto; Piccini, Garay, Gabriel, Gaya; Wass, Parejo, Coquelin, Goncalo Guedes (Torres 72); Rodrigo (Santi Mina 72), Gameiro
SUBS NOT USED: Jaume, Roncaglia, Carlos Soler, Diakhaby, Toni Lato
GOALS: Gamiero (11, 58)
BOOKINGS: Garay (38), Gaya (43)
COACH: Marcelino Garcia Toral
ARSENAL: (3-4-3) Cech; Monreal, Papastathopoulos, Koscielny; Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Torreira (Guendouzi 80), Kolasinac (Mustafi 71); Lacazette, Ozil (Mkhitaryan 62), Aubameyang
SUBS NOT USED: Leno (GK); Elneny, Iwobi, Nketiah
GOALS: Aubameyang (17, 69, 89), Lacazette (50)
BOOKINGS: Ozil (62)
COACH: Unai Emery
REFEREE: Danny Makkelie (Holland)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
VENUE: Mestalla Stadium
For more of Sportmail’s fantastic MATCH ZONE feature, please click here.
Kevin Gamiero (No 9) got Valencia off to a brilliant start to spark hopes of a comeback after just 11 minutes at the Mestalla
However, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (No 14) answered back almost immediately to give Arsenal a crucial away goal
Petr Cech can still dream of ending his career with his hands around the Europa League.
They did it their way, of course. This being Arsenal, it was not without a scare and there was no shortage of goals.
Kevin Gameiro stirred Valencia’s drums of war with an early goal and the Mestalla shook but if Emery’s side lack the defensive solidity to shut opponents out they have firepower to keep another miracle fight back at bay.
Arsenal’s front two were magnificent, landing the blows when they needed to find the target.
Aubameyang calmed the nerves a vital interjection at a time when Valencia were threatening to swarm all over the visitors.
Lacazette put them 2-1 up and erased any thought of the second half starting like the first. His goal also gave them the psychological edge in case away goals came into the equation.
Valencia’s French striker Kevin Gameiro waves his players back to their own half after scoring the opening goal
Gamiero managed to get behind the Arsenal defence at the back post to tap in the opening goal on Thursday evening
Valencia’s No 9 slides to meet the ball as Petr Cech (left) and Nacho Monreal (centre) can only watch the ball go in
Gamiero gets a high-five from Rodrigo who set him up to score the goal as Arsenal’s players look dejected
It didn’t. Gameiro grabbed his second but so did Aubameyang, who then added a third, slammed into the roof of the net from a tight angle in the closing minutes.
It was his 29th of the season and his athletic style and clinical finishing he is beginning to draw comparisons to Thierry Henry.
Arsenal make for Baku for the Europa League final at the end of the month, one step beyond last season when they were ousted at this stage by Atletico Madrid.
In 22 years under Arsene Wenger they were losing finalists in the old UEFA Cup, beaten on penalties by Galatasaray in 2000, and the in the Champions League, beaten by Barcelona in 2006.
Emery, a serial winner in this competition, is seeking to end the club’s drought of 25 years without a European trophy.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates equalising for Arsenal giving Unai Emery’s side a crucial away goal on the night
Surrounded by Valencia players, Aubameyang got off his shot quickly with an outside of the boot finish
The Gabon international superbly finished from outside the box after running onto a header from Alexandre Lacazette
Aubameyang celebrates with Lacazette (left) after the two linked up to score Arsenal’s equaliser in the first half
The Arsenal players celebrate their first goal after just 17 minutes on the clock at the Mestalla Stadium
It has been a long wait since Alan Smith’s winner in Copenhagen. Is this the year? When it comes with a ticket to next season’s Chapmions League.
That is a lucrative bonus for a team set to finish fifth in the Premier League.
Progress under Emery has been fitful but perhaps this will prove a night which emboldens character.
They arrived with the comfort of a two-goal cushion but Valencia were inspired by the spectacular revivals of Liverpool and Tottenham.
Thousands greeted the teams on the streets outside the Mestalla with firecrackers and flares and a raucous din.
Emery, who was Valencia boss for four years, was roundly jeered as he skipped from the bus.
They have never forgiven him for his euphoric celebrations when his Sevilla team scored in the final seconds of the UEFA Cup semi-finals five years ago.
This was never going to be a warm and affectionate homecoming.
Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring Arsenal’s second goal against Valencia in their Europa League semi-final second leg
The Frenchman showed great strength to hold off his man to then turn and shoot at Valencia’s goal
Lacazette’s shot flies into the net as Valencia goalkeeper Neto is unable to get a hand to it as Arsenal take the lead
Lacazette is congratulated by his team-mates as Arsenal gained a strong advantage due to the away goals rule
Valencia have built a reputation for an aggressive and exciting brand of football since Marcelino Garcia Toral arrived and restored stability to a famous old club.
Marcelino unleashed his team at a terrific tempo, focused on attacking the areas behind Arsenal’s wing-backs and Ainsley Maitland-Niles was exposed on the right, with Emery’s formation offering him little support or protection.
Laurent Koscielny made a vital intervention at the near post as Gameiro spun behind the young defender and fizzed a cross towards Jose Gaya.
Goncalo Guedes fired over on the run from the left and the home team went ahead when Maitland-Niles charged forward and left a space which was exploited by Valencia.
Guedes released Rodrigo and his low cross was converted from close range by Gameiro.
Valencia did not step back and went after the second as Arsenal tried to spoil and break up play.
One sweet strike by Rodrigo crashed into a teammate, another whistled narrowly wide before Arsenal pierced the momentum with a classic English aerial attack.
Gamiero sparked hopes of a comeback again as he scrambled the ball over the line to make it 2-2 on the night
The French striker barely celebrates as he runs back to the halfway line to get the game restarted again
Cech’s long clearance was misjudged in the air by former Gabriel Paulista who was then beaten to the second header by Alexandre Lacazette.
Aubameyang pounced to take the flick on his chest and finished clinically, low into the corner.
The Mestalla caught its breath. The travelling fans celebrated high in one corner.
Valencia’s dangerous early rhythm was disrupted and Arsenal took courage from this reminder of their frailties at the back.
As they settled into some better spells of possession in midfield, Mesut Ozil drifted into the game.
Preferred as the playmaker ahead of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, one Ozil pass found Aubameyang on the edge of the penalty area but this time his strike lacked the pace to beat goalkeeper Neto.
Daniel Parejo curled a free-kick wide but seven minutes before half-time Lacazette missed a wonderful chance to seize control.
Aubameyang sped down the right past Gaya and picked out his strike partner who checked his run and dropped onto the edge of the penalty box.
A slight confusion in the 10th minute saw two balls on the pitch at the same time with one ball nearly deflecting off the other
Mesut Ozil (right) dribbles past former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin (left) during the first half on Thursday evening
It was sublime link-up play all the way up until the moment when Lacazette’s curling shot glanced the outside of a post on its way wide.
He really ought to have scored and Arsenal would have gone into the interval ahead.
Signs of desperation were already starting to show in Valencia’s play.
Experienced centre-half Ezequiel Garay was booked for a scything foul and Gaya was booked for a dive as he tried to win a penalty.
There was more pressure in the second half but without the early intensity.
Arsenal had muted the drums of war and Aubameyang weighed in with a greater defensive shift, working back to shield Maitland-Niles.
Arsenal manager Emery (right) hands the ball off after it goes out for a throw-in as the Gunners heap pressure on Valencia
There was a party atmosphere in the build up to the game as Valencia fans lined the streets to set off flares and wave flags
Supporters waved flags and scarves as the team buses made their way to the Mestalla Stadium on Thursday
A sea of Valencia flags flood the streets in the hours before kick off as both sides played for a place in Europa League final
He warmed to the task and even won the ball at the start of the move for the second goal, sliding a pass inside to Lucas Torreira who found Lacazette in the penalty area.
This time there was no mistake with the finish, a fabulous piece of close control in a crowded area, a cool finish and a stylish knee-slide towards a mob of jubilant substitutes, erupting from the Arsenal bench.
Gameiro, who won this competition three times under Emery at Sevilla, claimed his second to level on the night when he diverted a shot by Rodrigo past Cech.
There were still more than 30 minutes to go but Aubameyang struck the third from a cross by Maitland-Niles and completed the scoring from a pass by substitute Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
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