After all the chaos ahead of this Europa League encounter, it was calmness from Arsenal’s unfazed youngsters that finally put an end to the Poltava palaver once and for all.
Unai Emery’s side won to ensure they qualify top of Group E, with two teenagers in Emile Smith Rowe and Joe Willock scoring as the kids kept their cool in icy conditions.
It was –10C at kick-off and at one point, the referee had to replace his spray because it had frozen. Still, Arsenal’s team of starlets did their job ahead of Sunday’s north London derby.
Joe Willock, Aaron Ramsey and Emile Smith Rowe got on the scoresheet as Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 victory over Vorskla
Willock’s fine individual goal in the 41st minute wrapped up proceedings for the Premier League outfit on Thursday
The 19-year-old midfielder is mobbed by his team-mates, who showed their delight in seeing him score his first Arsenal goal
Ramsey put the Gunners 2-0 ahead with a very cool penalty in the 27th minute at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium
Ramsey is congratulated by his colleagues after putting daylight between the two teams early on in the European clash
The Wales international sends Vorskla goalkeeper Bohdan Shust to the floor as he makes it 2-0 to Arsenal in the 27th minute
Vorskla players complain to the referee after Ramsey’s penalty, claiming the Welshman stopped during his run-up
MATCH FACTS, MATCH ZONE AND GROUP TABLE
Vorskla Poltava (4-4-1-1): Shust 5; Perduta 5, Chesnakov 4.5, Dallku 4.5, Artur 5; Sapai 5 (Careca 36, 5), Skliar 4.5, Sharpar 5, Rebenok 5 (Sakiv 85); Kulach 5 (Kane 71, 5.5); Kolomoyets 5
Subs (not used): Tkachenko, Serhiichuk, Mysyk, Chyzhov
Booked: Sklyar, Sharpar, Kolomoets
Manager: Vasyl Sachko 5
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech 7; Lichtsteiner 7, Holding 7 (Medley 60, 6.5), Jenkinson 7, Maitland-Niles 7.5; Elneny 7.5, Guendouzi 8 (Gilmour 76); Willock 8, Ramsey 7.5 (Saka 68, 6.5), Smith Rowe 8.5; Nketiah 7
Subs (not used): Martinez, Mkhitaryan, Osei-Tutu, John-Jules
Scorers: Smith Rowe (10), Ramsey (27 pen), Willock (41)
Manager: Unai Emery 7.5
Referee: Bartosz Frankowski 6
This is how Joe Willock scored his first senior Arsenal goal to put the visitors 3-0 ahead in the 41st minute. CLICK HERE to find out more from our brilliant MATCH ZONE.
Arsenal will head into their Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur looking to make it 19 matches unbeaten. In truth, No 18 was never in doubt here in Kiev.
This was harmless preparation, albeit in harsh conditions. Vorskla Poltava, fourth in the Ukrainian Premier League, made this match feel like a testimonial at times.
They will point to this week’s events as an excuse, of course, after chaos and confusion overshadowed the build-up to this clash.
First, Ukraine’s parliament imposed martial law in parts of the country due to conflict with Russia, prompting UEFA to move the match from Poltava 210 miles away to the capital.
Then, Vorskla complained the stadium switch wiped out their home advantage. They had sold 25,000 tickets for this tie but the 70,000-seater Olympic Stadium was less than a tenth full.
As a result, the Ukrainian club claimed they may not even play the European tie. Thankfully, they did turn up. Well, sort of, because Arsenal cruised to victory here in Kiev.
Smith Rowe gave Arsenal the perfect start in the freezing conditions, finishing off after a fine team move in the 10th minute
Smith Rowe celebrates after scoring his third Arsenal goal – with his first coming against Qarabag earlier in the competition
The 18-year-old is mobbed by his Arsenal team-mates after breaking the deadlock in the 10th minute at the Olympic Stadium
Smith Rowe thought he scored his second of the evening and Arsenal’s fourth but it was later ruled out by the officials
Emery named a number of kids in his squad with 12 of the 20 who travelled products of the academy. The starting line-up’s outfield players had only 389 Premier League appearances between them, and 247 of those belonged to Aaron Ramsey.
Within 11 minutes, Arsenal had their opener and it came from Smith Rowe, the 18-year-old who has yet to appear in the top flight. Judging by his efforts here, his time will come sooner rather than later.
Ramsey and Eddie Nketiah worked their way into the box with back-to-back one-twos and the ball bobbled towards Smith Rowe. With a gaping goal from 12 yards, he made no mistake.
It was made 2-0 after 27 minutes when Smith Rowe fed Ramsey, who danced his way around two Vorskla defenders. Igor Perduta bundled him over and Polish referee Bartosz Frankowski pointed to the spot, ignoring the subsequent protests of the Ukrainian side’s players.
Ramsey took it himself, gave goalkeeper Bohdan Shust the eyes and found the right-hand corner.
Emery was pacing in his technical area, partly to keep warm but also to ensure the foot was not taken off the gas. Before half time, Arsenal helped themselves to a third.
Bukayo Saka, Zech Medley and Charlie Gilmour were all given their senior Arsenal debuts with the result beyond doubt
Gilmour comes on for his debut in the 76th minute, replacing talented French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi
Unai Emery’s side made very light work of Vorskla in the Europa League ahead of Sunday’s North London derby
Emery chats with his assistant coach Juan Carlos Carcedo during the second half of Arsenal’s comfortable victory
A quick through-ball by Mohamed Elneny gave Willock something to chase. He had a man ahead of him but no matter, as the 19-year-old bended the ball around the defender from 18 yards.
To sum up Vorslka’s contribution to the first half, one final opportunity saw Vladyslav Kulach let rip from 25 yards, only to slice his shot and fall on his backside.
Strangely, the records showed that Arsenal had never won an away match against Ukrainian opposition, having drawn once and lost four. They were well on their way to righting that wrong.
It looked like it was 4-0 in the 65th minute when Smith Rowe scored a tap-in at the back post. The players were celebrating and the academy starlet was receiving pats on the head galore.
Veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech had a very quiet evening in between the posts for Arsenal against the Ukrainian outfit
Carl Jenkinson attempts to close down Vorskla’s Vladyslav Kulach during the opening period of the encounter
Then, after at least 30 seconds of this, the goal was ruled out. All of a sudden, the assistant had his flag up, and Smith Rowe would have to make do with only being on the scoresheet once.
Vorskla lost 4-2 in the reverse fixture in north London after scoring twice in the final 15 minutes. Their players would need to repeat the trick to salvage some pride.
Their luck was out. This was an unusual match overall. Outside the Olympic Stadium, there were more Ukrainian soldiers than actual supporters.
Still, the 500 or so Arsenal fans who travelled to Ukraine left happy enough. The plan now? To thaw out, then tackle Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium.
Ramsey and his Arsenal team-mates were in complete control from the off in Kiev on Thursday evening