Report: Dundalk 2-4 Arsenal

Arsenal rounded off their Europa League group campaign with a perfect record as they beat Dundalk in Dublin.

Eddie Nketiah and Mo Elneny gave the Gunners a comfortable lead before Jordan Flores pulled one back for the hosts.

Joe Willock added another European goal to his tally after the break and Folarin Balogun came off the bench to add to his growing reputation.

A Sean Hoare header saw Dundalk grab another goal but the night belonged to Hale End with three goals, two assists and first-team debuts for Ben Cottrell and Miguel Azeez.

Mikel Arteta opted to field a more experienced line-up than many were hoping with the likes of Mohamed Elneny, Shkodran Mustafi and Nicolas Pépé involved. The Spaniard did use the game to give Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari much-needed game time as they continue their recovery from injury while Emile Smith Rowe was handed his first start of the season. 

Balogun was made to wait for his first start while academy stars Cottrell and Miguel also made the trip to Ireland.

Dundalk frustrated the Gunners in the reverse fixture but there was to be no repeat in Ireland. With just over 10 minutes on the clock, Nketiah blocked Andrew Boyle’s attempted clearance, beat him to the rebound and flicked a wonderful effort over the onrushing Gary Rogers.

Smith Rowe and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were linking up to good effect down the left-hand side and it was the former who opened up space for Elneny to smash home a stunner from 25 yards. 

Any thoughts of an easy night were quickly extinguished when the hosts hit back almost instantly. A neat one-two saw Michael Duffy play Flores into the box and the midfielder’s effort flew past the diving hands of Alex Rúnarsson.

The goal energised Dundalk and they started to flood forward with more confidence and should have bagged an equaliser before the break. Patrick McEleney’s cross fell invitingly for Darragh Leahy but Chambers did enough to get in the way. 

Arsenal added more urgency in the second half as they looked to dominate but their eagerness to attack left them open to the counter and the Irish side should have punished them early in the second half. A long ball sent Duffy scampering down the pitch but his cut back was slightly behind the two players who had run the length of the pitch to back him up. 

Balogun and Dani Ceballos were introduced shortly after the hour mark and the young English striker quickly made his mark. The teenager used his strength to hold the ball up before laying it off to Willock to stroke the ball beyond Rogers. 

Nicolas Pépé wanted in on the action as he went for a cheeky chip but he put too much power on the effort. The Ivorian did help the Gunners grab a fourth with a perfectly weighted ball that Balogun side-footed past Rogers for his second goal in four games. 

Again, Dundalk responded quickly with Sean Hoare heading past Rúnarsson but it proved to be mere consolation.

Cottrell and Azeez came on to make their first-team debuts in what was another pleasing night in the Europa League.  

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