Bate Borisov 2-4 Arsenal – BBC Sport

Theo Walcott has scored three goals in his last two games

Theo Walcott scored twice as a much-changed Arsenal beat Bate Borisov in the Europa League to make it two wins from two in Group H.

Jack Wilshere was excellent and set up a Walcott chance which hit the post before assisting the forward’s close-range opener.

Bate keeper Denis Scherbitski then inexplicably passed the ball straight to Walcott to slot home a second.

Rob Holding scored his first Arsenal goal, turning home Per Mertesacker’s flick-on from Walcott’s corner to seemingly put the game past Bate after 25 minutes.

But Mirko Ivanic pulled one back for the Belarusians after one of their few real attacks in the first half with an excellent 10-yard header from Aleksey Rios’ cross.

Arsenal restored their three-goal advantage after the break as Olivier Giroud scored his 100th Arsenal goal from the spot after a soft penalty award against Vitali Gayduchik, who did not appear to make much contact with Shkodran Mustafi.

Bate did pull another back when Mikhail Gordeychuk slammed home from close range after David Ospina parried Ivanic’s header.

And Arsenal – who had looked comfortable up to that point – were hanging on at times in the end. Aleksandr Volodko could have set up an anxious finale but he fired a shot wide from inside the box.

The Gunners are top of Group H on six points with Red Star Belgrade second on four points after they beat Cologne, who have lost both matches, 1-0 thanks to Richmond Boakye’s goal.

Gunners’ fringe players impress

Arsenal’s first Europa League campaign since it was called the Uefa Cup in 1999-2000 will give some of their fringe players more opportunities to play this season. And, by and large, they took their chance in Belarus. For 65 minutes anyway.

Boss Arsene Wenger made nine changes to the side who beat West Brom 2-0 on Monday, leaving several of his first-team players back in England – with an entirely youthful bench.

Youngsters Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson at wing-back, and Joseph Willock in central midfield, all had solid performances – albeit against weak opposition. Teenagers Marcus McGuane and Edward Nketiah came on for their debuts in the final 10 minutes.

Walcott – who has not started a Premier League game this season – could have scored three or four goals. His first major opportunity came when Wilshere slipped him through and he hit the post from 10 yards out.

He then opened the scoring, bundling home at the second attempt after Scherbitski had saved his initial header from Wilshere’s cross.

His second goal was a gift from the keeper, but Scherbitski denied him a hat-trick with a good fingertip save.

Defender Holding scored his first Gunners goal from close range and then hit the post from a similar opportunity a few minutes later.

Either side of Bate’s goals, Giroud joined Walcott in the list of 19 players to hit 100 goals for the Gunners – from a controversial penalty award which seemed to catch everyone by surprise.

But Wenger will surely be slightly concerned by the fact Bate – who are third in the Belarusian league – managed to give them a few frights in the final 25 minutes after the Gunners had looked as if they would cruise to victory.

Win caps off good September for Arsenal

The Gunners did not end August in a good place. A 4-0 defeat at Liverpool left them with three points from their opening three league games – and Wenger under pressure.

But they have won five of their six games in September, drawing the other 0-0 with Premier League champions Chelsea.

They are the first team to beat Bate away from home in European competition since Barcelona in the Champions League group stages in 2015 – a run of seven games.

More to follow.

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