The goal in the final minute of normal time for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang changed the complexion somewhat, but can Arsenal be trusted not to concede twice in Spain? It isn’t exactly one to sling the mortgage on.
So it was a good win, but not one that will be impossible to overturn if Arsenal defend like this again. They will need to be tighter in Spain, and sharper in front of goal, too. They have the beating of this Valencia team, but cannot afford to be sloppy.
Had Lacazette taken his chances, had Arsenal’s back line been alert to the dangers of Marcelino’s team, the tie would have been as good as resolved in the home leg.
Instead there is plenty that could yet go wrong. Unai Emery’s celebration of the third goal suggested a man who thought it would be enough, but better defences than this have proved vulnerable under the pressure of a semi-final. ‘Together to Baku’ is UEFA’s slogan for this undercard tournament. Arsenal will need to be, if they are to make the journey.
A third of the night was big, though, have no doubt of that. Sead Kolasinac played the ball deep to the far post and Aubameyang met it on the volley. It looked a mis-kick, but it did the trick, creeping in low by the feet of goalkeeper Neto who was deeply unimpressive all night. Yet had that been Arsenal’s fourth, or fifth, we would now be talking of the tie is over. This still feels like half-time.
So while Lacazette was the hero of the night, he was also its problem child, too. In the space of four second-half minutes he spurned the opportunities that would have taken the tie away from Valencia. It left Arsenal vulnerable, still – as several late chances for Valencia demonstrated.
What should have been Lacazette’s hat-trick goal came in the 63rd minute. Aubameyang succeeded with some delightful trickery on the flank – it is no surprise that Emery sometimes deploys him there – and hit a lovely cross for Lacazette to convert. It was perfectly teed up but the striker took his eye off the ball and ended up missing it completely, the cross striking an arm instead.