Theo Walcott double sets Arsenal on way to victory at Bate Borisov

To butcher a phrase Arsène Wenger coined many years ago, if you eat caviar every day, sometimes it is not so bad to return to sausages. After all those seasons of Champions League, Arsenal have rather taken to life in the Europa League. It is not always easy to get the blend right with a reshuffled team, a mix of older pros who are perhaps not getting as much football as they want, and kids desperate for opportunities. But Arsenal got stuck into their sausages, established enough “cohesion” to please the manager, and ended up having the better of a rollicking, bundles of chances, blast in Belarus.

Bate Borisov 2-4 Arsenal: Europa League – as it happened
Theo Walcott scored twice and Olivier Giroud netted his 100th Arsenal goal in a 4-2 win over Bate Borisov
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There was always going to be a question of how seriously Arsenal take the group stage of this competition and it is to the credit of the senior players chosen for this trip, who did not take this game lightly, that they are coasting Group H without being wholly convincing. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott are two of the club’s longest-serving players and they created the platform to help Arsenal secure maximum points from their European outings so far. Olivier Giroud, another of the senior performers, slotted in his 100th goal for the club. Walcott was on a hat-trick when a penalty was awarded early in the second half but stood aside to let his team-mate join a grand list of centurions. The Frenchman coolly placed his shot and enjoyed the moment.

Wenger went straight to Giroud after the game to congratulate him on his milestone. “It is a remarkable achievement,” he said. “He is in good company. When you play football the most difficult thing is to score goals and he scored 100 for us.”

The Arsenal manager was also particularly complimentary about Wilshere, who continues to improve and catch the eye with each performance since his latest injury, bringing even greater authority. Playing a more advanced role than central midfield, he was influential. “He had an outstanding first half, did fight until the end, and is on a good way back to his best,” noted Wenger. “He is at an age where a player normally gets to the best of his career. He has only been stopped by a series of injuries. I just pray he is not hampered any more by any problems. He will get stronger and stronger. He has shown tonight he has not lost any football.”


With a host of first-teamers left in London and spared the 2,500-mile trip, Arsenal’s team leaned on the knowhow of players with abundant experience. Across a starting XI that included three youngsters they still had a combined 400 international caps. With Wilshere excelling and Walcott darting around just behind Giroud, Arsenal created enough of a lead that even when Bate burst into life the result was not in serious danger. It was just as well Wenger’s front men produced as the defenders had numerous ragged moments of their own in a very open game.

Part of the character of the Europa League experience is the chance to go off the beaten track and Arsenal’s first away trip took them to Borisov, the ninth-largest place in Belarus. Nestled in the woods just on the outskirts a spaceship stadium is parked, full of rainbow colour, which is home to its nation’s perennial champions.

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They were soon behind as Arsenal started sharply. Wilshere’s vision shone and when his creative finery picked out Walcott, the forward finished with a neat header. Arsenal added another couple in a three-minute burst midway through the first half. Bate’s last line of defence, Denis Scherbitski, dropped an exceptional clanger, popping the ball straight to Walcott who drilled in past the stricken keeper. Arsenal turned the screw and Rob Holding looked ecstatic to shin in the third from a corner.

Leading with confidence made the occasion one to relish for the youngsters given a chance to pick up the experience of a European away match. Wenger’s faith in youth was interesting, especially as all three rookies played in midfield – the heartland packed in this case with inexperienced promise. At 18 years old, Joe Willock had presence in the centre alongside Mohammed Elneny, with the 17-year-old Reiss Nelson and 20-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles showing flashes of ability from the wider wing-back roles.

Mirko Ivanic took advantage of some soft Arsenal defending to head in a goal acclaimed joyously by the home crowd. Bate scored another to cherish in the second half when Mikhail Gordeichuk rifled in from close range. Ospina had to be alert to punch away moments later. Somehow Arsenal were in danger of snatching anxiety from the jaws of a comfortable victory.

They saw out the game, and headed home and back to the Premier League. A difficult week to manage has so far been handled well.

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Celtic ended their run of 16 European group games without a win as goals by Leigh Griffiths, Patrick Roberts and Scott Sinclair saw off Anderlecht.

The win moves Celtic level with Bayern Munich in Group B, and establishes a crucial advantage over Anderlecht.

Griffiths’ opener was created by a fine passing move involving Olivier Ntcham and Kieran Tierney.

Kara Mbodji inadvertently deflected Roberts’ shot in after the break then Sinclair crashed in a late third.

Celtic: Rodgers delighted with ‘outstanding performance’ in Brussels
The only setback for Celtic was the departure of captain Scott Brown during the second half, the midfielder limping off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

He could now be a doubt for Scotland’s World Cup qualifying double header against Slovakia and Slovenia, but for Celtic this was their first away shut-out in the Champions League group stage.

Celtic began nervously, and for the opening 25 minutes they couldn’t hold on to the ball, their passing letting them down hugely. From Ntcham to Roberts, they coughed up possession constantly and invited Anderlecht on to them.

Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths
Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths finished emphatically after a fine passing move involving Olivier Ntcham and Kieran Tierney
The saving grace was that the Belgian side, beleaguered in their domestic league, were nowhere near good enough to take advantage.

Celtic settled when the goal came – and it was a beauty, a study in accurate and clinical football, the polar opposite of what had gone before.

It began with Ntcham, who delivered a gorgeously weighted pass to Tierney, scampering down the left flank. The timing of the pass and the run were exquisite, as was Tierney’s driven cross to Griffiths, who had cleverly peeled away from Olivier Deschacht in the box.

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Lionel Messi? Radamel Falcao? Alvaro Morata? Who is Europe’s most deadly striker

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, Chelsea new boy Alvaro Morata and Manchester United’s summer signing Romelu Lukaku are joint top of the scoring charts after impressive starts to the campaign.

But how do they rank in comparison to the rest of Europe’s hotshots?

BBC Sport cross examines Europe’s most clinical strikers and the rest of the key statistics from the weekend.

Europe’s golden shoe contenders?

We’re only into the second month of the season and, incredibly, two players are already into double figures.

Monaco striker Radamel Falcao has scored 11 goals in just seven Ligue 1 games while Paulo Dybala has hit 10 in six games for Juventus in Serie A.

In La Liga, Lionel Messi unsurprisingly tops the scoring chart with nine goals from six games.

But while Falcao tops the scoring charts in Europe it is Dybla who is the most deadly finisher in terms of minutes-per-goal.

The 23-year-old Argentina forward averages a goal every 47 minutes. And in the Premier League it is Morata who tops that statistic, with the former Real Madrid man bagging every 76 minutes.

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Harry Kane’s London derbies scoring record: The numbers

Can Harry Kane continue his impressive London derby scoring record when Tottenham face West Ham live on Sky Sports on Saturday?

The 24-year-old has netted 19 goals in 28 Premier League appearances against London opposition since breaking into the Spurs team in the 2013/14 campaign.

His average of 0.68 goals per game is second only to Arsenal legend Thierry Henry among players to have made a minimum of 10 appearances in the Premier League.

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Nervous Arsenal scrape past Doncaster after Theo Walcott’s neat finish

The circumstances might have been low-key compared to Wenger-Ferguson duels of old, but the second generation of a legendary footballing family did his upmost to ensure it was an edgy, vehemently competed affair as Arsenal squeaked past Doncaster Rovers. Darren Ferguson’s team gave Arsenal a fright as a contest that looked relatively comfortable in the first half turned into a nail-biter.

The Carabao Cup might not be a priority – the lowest recorded crowd since Arsenal moved to the Emirates of 44,064 attested to a certain lack of enthusiasm in north London – but Doncaster and their merry followers were able to admire a battling performance that belied their position in the lower reaches of League One.

Arsenal did enough thanks to Theo Walcott’s neatly taken dink of a match-winning goal. But the real boon belonged to the man who walked off the pitch with his shirt off and a big thumbs-up for the crowd. Jack Wilshere completed 90 minutes for Arsenal for the first time in almost three years. That is a meaningful statistic for a player who has had more than his fair share of setbacks.

Wilshere’s creative performance shone a light on the qualities he is capable of bringing to his team from the heart of midfield. Against opponents where there was space to look and think, he relished the opportunity to orchestrate, to spray passes with elan and to direct traffic with quick thinking and clear vision. He was not in a situation where he had to overstretch and over-compete, which suited him well. It was a positive stride along the road to recovery at his boyhood club that has had plenty of potholes.

Arsène Wenger felt the opportunity was perfect for Wilshere. “I wanted to leave him on to give him 90 minutes. Overall it was the ideal game for him to gain confidence and fitness,” he said. “We will see how he responds now. He is available now to play – the decision is when to play him. He needs 90 minutes of intensity repeated. He will soon be back. Everyone is looking at him. Everyone expects him to come back to his best. I wish that as well.”


Even though Wenger tends to favour what he calls a “mixed” line-up in these less significant challenges on the season’s wish-list, it was a surprise to see Alexis Sánchez in the starting XI. Any kind of injury picked up in a game like this would have opened up a supersized can of worms. But from Wenger’s perspective the Chilean, who had an extended summer holiday, still needed minutes in his legs to regain full sharpness. This was another useful 90-minute workout.

Some players who warrant the Champions League platform might coast through a Carabao Cup run-out but not Sánchez. His motivation was fully charged. His hunger to play manifested itself in a display full of chasing causes, darting runs and a willingness to shoot.

It was his instinct for a raking attacking pass that provided Arsenal with the decisive goal, which invited Walcott to finish past the goalkeeper Ian Lawlor. The home team had the chances to open up a comfortable lead and Olivier Giroud will wonder how he did not manage to claim his 100th Arsenal goal after a series of decent efforts, while Walcott ought to have added more.

Doncaster were satisfied to go in at half-time still in contention, with enough encouraging moments of their own to give them hope. As the game wore on Arsenal became more ragged and Doncaster’s determined attitude as they chased an equaliser won the hearts of the massed visiting support in the Clock end.

By the end Arsenal’s strangely imbalanced defensive line-up was on the rocks and Rovers went agonisingly close. Ben Whiteman had a free run at goal. Liam Mandeville’s clever cut-back and shot was deflected. Matty Blair’s header hit the crossbar. Despite their valiant efforts, it was not to be.

“I am proud of the players,” Ferguson said. “They did a lot of the things asked. It was a fantastic learning curve in terms of concentration levels.” Arsenal ticked this off and will host Norwich City in the next round.

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Laura Bassett: England defender joins Canberra United

England defender Laura Bassett has joined Australian W-League club Canberra United.

Bassett, 34, was a free agent after her previous side Notts County Ladies folded in April.

She becomes the third Lioness to move abroad this summer after striker Toni Duggan joined Barcelona and right-back Lucy Bronze signed for Lyon.

“After what happened at Notts I’m looking forward to putting it behind me and a fresh start,” Bassett said.

“It’s out of my comfort zone and something I’ve never done before and it will be a real challenge for me to go overseas.”

England thump Russia in World Cup qualifying
Notts Country were liquidated on the eve of the Women’s Super League One Spring Series, meaning Bassett did not play any club football before the European Championship in July – where England were knocked out in the semi-finals.

“I had quite a few options considering my age, it’s nice to know I am still respected and they value the experience I can give to a team,” Bassett told BBC Sport.

The defender is part of the England squad playing in the World Cup qualifiers, which they began with a 6-0 victory over Russia on Tuesday.

The 2017-18 winter Women’s Super League season – the first since a transition from the previous summer calendar – begins on 22 September.
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Premier League stats: Prolific partners, goal droughts & possession problems

There is a new prolific Premier League strike partnership on the prowl.

Manchester City’s free-scoring front men have started the season brilliantly – but how do they compare to the deadliest partnerships in the history of the league?

In contrast, teams in London cannot find the net, while the weekend games suggested that possession does not necessarily equal points.

BBC Sport analyses the most interesting statistics from the latest action in the Premier League.

Can City slickers become top duo?

With the evolution of false nines, inverted wingers and hard-working solo forwards, it appeared the days of traditional Premier League strike partnerships were behind us.

And when Gabriel Jesus arrived at Manchester City from Palmeiras last season, Pep Guardiola said he intended to play the young Brazilian in a wide role.

But while the 20-year-old has since impressed his boss as a “nine”, he has stiff competition for that spot from Sergio Aguero, who has scored 175 goals since joining City in 2011.

Guardiola’s solution? Play them both. It has proved an inspired choice.

“We scored a lack of goals last season so we thought that maybe they should play together,” Guardiola told BBC Sport after his side hammered Watford 6-0 on Saturday, with Aguero netting a hat-trick and Jesus also on the scoresheet.

Yorke and Cole and Shearer and Sutton
Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole scored a combined 35 Premier League goals for Manchester United in 1998-99, while Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton netted 49 during Blackburn’s 1994-95 success
BBC Sport football analyst Garth Crooks says the South American duo remind him of a partnership formed on the other side of Manchester.

“Aguero and Jesus are looking formidable together and developing a striking partnership I’ve not seen since the days of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, and we all know what they accomplished,” said former Spurs forward Crooks.

Cole and Yorke scored 53 goals between them in all competitions as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side won the treble in 1998-99, but how do Aguero and Jesus compare to that pair as well as the Premier League’s other most prolific partnerships?

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Manchester United 4-0 Everton: Wayne Rooney frustrated as United march on

Manchester United made it a frustrating homecoming for Wayne Rooney as they thrashed Everton 4-0 at Old Trafford on Super Sunday.

United’s all-time leading scorer watched his former team-mates take an early lead thanks to a fantastic strike from Antonio Valencia with just four minutes on the clock before late goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku, who was scoring against his former club, and Anthony Martial put further gloss on the victory.

Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku cupped his ears to the Everton fans after scoring but claimed it was just banter
Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku cupped his ears to the Everton fans after scoring but claimed it was just banter
Despite chances at either end, including a good one for Rooney, Everton couldn’t live up to United’s ruthlessness, as the hosts moved level on points at the top of the table with rivals Manchester City.

The result leaves Everton with just four points after their first five Premier League games, although their tricky fixture list, which has seen them take on United, City, Chelsea and Tottenham, is behind them now.

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