Bukayo Saka still had plenty to do. But this was another night when you knew that he would do it. The Arsenal winger was gliding up the right, his team 1-0 up, 64 minutes on the clock and, when he sliced inside, the shift was so explosive that his standing foot appeared to slip.
In a swift motion, he snatched it and executed a maneuver past Sevilla’s defender, Adrià Pedrosa, creating space between them. The shot was skillfully directed into the goal and Arsenal secured their spot in the Champions League’s last 16. Effortlessly, they are on the verge of advancing.
Arsenal’s superiority over a desperately poor Sevilla was pronounced. It was clear from an early juncture why the Spanish club have won only three matches all season. Their meekness was damned by the eyes and the statistics, the worst of the latter being that they mustered only one shot all night. In the 97th minute.
Mikel Arteta was also disappointed to see Saka leave the field due to an ankle injury in the 85th minute, as it meant his star player’s display of gratitude did not occur after the game but during it.
During the match, Saka assisted Leandro Trossard in scoring the first goal. However, he was continuously fouled, with four incidents occurring within the first 17 minutes. When he received his final foul, he was unable to continue playing despite trying to after receiving treatment. He then had to leave the field along the perimeter.
Strangely, the referee Istvan Kovacs allowed him to continue after showing him a yellow card for being slow. The reason behind this was that the England manager Gareth Southgate looked concerned while watching from the stands. He will announce his team for the upcoming international games on Thursday afternoon. Arteta explained that Saka had a minor injury and did not want to continue playing.
However, it was the only blemish for the Arsenal manager, aside from the ongoing struggles of Kai Havertz with the ball. Arsenal came into the game following losses against West Ham in the Carabao Cup and Newcastle in the Premier League, along with the controversy surrounding Arteta’s remarks about refereeing standards. This match proved to be a smoother experience for him.
Due to injuries to Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus, Arteta opted to use Trossard as a unique No 9, while allowing Havertz to freely move around him from the No 10 position.
Havertz had an opportunity to score in the first minute, but he missed a header from a corner. This set the tone for his performance. He had more chances at the beginning of the second half, but he still lacks confidence. He has the talent, but he is hesitating.
It was evident from the initial interactions that Saka was performing well. His speed and skill allowed him to outmaneuver his full-back, Kike Salas, on one side, and the same was true for Gabriel Martinelli with Juanlu on the other side. Martinelli’s speed was almost unfair as he left Juanlu behind in one instance at the 43-minute mark. Martinelli controlled the ball on the sideline before turning and moving it away from Juanlu with the outside of his foot and sprinting past him. Unfortunately, the play did not result in a goal.
Arsenal’s domination was total. It was all Sevilla could do to string a few passes together. Crossing halfway felt like a pipe-dream, although Pedrosa did suddenly burst away in the 39th minute. No problem. William Saliba raced back to execute the perfect slide tackle.
Gabriel Magalhães missed the target with a header from an early free-kick taken by Saka. The goal that broke the deadlock was well-anticipated. Jorginho played a pass to Saka, who was inside Salas, and his first-touch cross was perfectly placed for the unmarked Trossard. The beauty of the goal was in its simple yet efficient execution.
The fans in the stadium seemed to be urging Havertz to make a move, to break out of the limitations that have defined his time at Arsenal thus far. He took a shot that was deflected by Salas and went behind the goal after a break by Saka; later, he was unable to anticipate a cross from Martinelli towards the far post at the 53-minute mark. Havertz also attempted a powerful curling shot that narrowly missed its target.
Returning to the players Martinelli and Saka, who caused trouble for Sevilla. Martinelli initiated the play for the second goal by sprinting from the left to the right side of the midfield, and then passing to his teammate for an impressive finish.
The replacement player Oleksandr Zinchenko struck the hands of Marko Dmitrovic with a powerful shot, leading to sarcastic cheers when Juanlu was ultimately given a yellow card for a rough challenge on Martinelli. To note, the substitute for Sevilla, Mariano Díaz, also had a chance to score. However, the save was easily made by David Raya.