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Arsenal 1 FC Zurich 0: Tierney thunderbolt sends Gunners into Europa League last-16 and avoid dreaded play-off

There may be no rest for the wicked but even Jesus doesn’t get a night off at the Emirates these days. 

Gabriel Jesus might have played in all but one of Arsenal’s games this season but still has to answer the call of duty every three days.

Kieran Tierney lashed home the winner in the first half
Mikel Arteta’s side sealed their route into the last 16 of the Europa League

News of the £45million striker’s inclusion in Mikel Arteta’s starting line-up inevitably went down like a s*** sandwich with the Emirates fans who couldn’t understand why he wasn’t being wrapped in cotton wool for Sunday’s Premier League trip to Chelsea.

In the absence of captain Martin Odegaard and the suspended Granit Xhaka, at least he got to wear the armband for the first time.

He still wasn’t able to end a goal drought which has now stretched to eight games after starting his Arsenal career like a house on fire.

But he couldn’t be denied the satisfaction of leading his team-mates to the victory which guaranteed top spot in their group.

And more importantly it means they will now sit out the round of 32 when the likes of Barcelona, Juventus, Ajax and Sevilla will be dropping into the competition from the Champions League.

Arteta’s problem is convincing the sceptical supporters that the Europa League is a competition actually worth pursuing while all the talk centres around their surprise title challenge.

So he was  understandably anxious to put this game to bed as quickly as possible so he could sub off his senior stars with Sunday’s game in mind.

He got his wish for an early breakthrough in the 17th minute when Kieran Tierney hammered an unstoppable shot into the far corner from the edge of the area after Fabio Vieira’s initial shot had been charged down.


That was the Scotland star’s first goal of what has so far been a frustrating season, so it was little surprise that he celebrated it like a mad thing.

They should have been further ahead in the 31st minute when Eddie Nketiah was blatantly pulled back by his shirt in the area by Lindrit Kamberi.

But referee Erik Lambrechts did not even refer the incident to VAR before Vieira’s follow-up shot was inadvertently blocked by Jesus in an offside position.

Nketiah had already tested the reflexes of keeper Yanick Brecher with a fierce shot from the edge of the area and was denied again when his powerful near post header drew another sharp save from the Zurich captain.

Considering that their team are currently bottom of the Swiss League and not even good enough to qualify for the Europa Conference League, the visiting supporters were remarkably chipper last night.

Arsenal stars celebrated their achievement
But Tierney ended up with a hole in his shirt later in the night
FC Zurich fans let off flares during the game
Despite his impressive performances it is now eight without a goal for Gabriel Jesus

A thick smog of blue smoke shrouded the stadium after dozens of blue flares were released from the away end in direct contravention of yesterday’s edict prohibiting the use of pyrotechnics.

But all the fireworks were coming from Arsenal as they pushed on in search of a killer second goal.

It should have arrived two minutes after the half-time break when Tierney’s free-kick dropped to Jesus right in front of goal.

But even though his shot brushed the arm of Brecher it was clearly going well over anyway.

It was to prove his last contribution to a disappointing night for the Brazilian before being replaced by Bukayo Saka for the final half hour.

Yet his departure only seemed to galvanise Zurich, who thought they had levelled in the 67th minute until Adrian Guerrero’s effort was ruled out for offside.

And with news of PSV Eindhoven winning away to Bodo/Glimt, Arsenal’s place at the top of Group A suddenly didn’t look quite so secure.

They just about hung on for the victory but the way Arteta’s weary players are struggling to keep their foot on the gas for 90 minutes suggests that it’s not only Jesus who needs a breather.

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