An hours delay is not the best start to a game in a competition most deride as superfluous.
Someone said that to David Ospina, and the Colombian decided he would try and beat it.
Thanks to masses of Koln fans making the trip to London without a ticket and trying to cram into the Clock End – and succeeding to a degree – it meant that safety was compromised and kickoff could not take place until 2105hrs – over an hour after it was designated.
Still, when our fans did all manage to take their seats, they were treated to the sight of our goalkeeper going a little unhinged and allowing the equally crazed Koln fans the opportunity to make more noise and set off more flares.
Our Cup Keeper raced out of his box to snaffle up a ball over the top of our defence. The problem wans’t that he didn’t get to it first. Oh no, Ospina was the proverbial greyhound. No, the problem was what he did when he got the ball.
The South American goalkeeper booted it flatly and straight to the opposition, and Ospina’s fellow countryman Cordoba lifted it over our keeper who was in No Man”s Land from all of 40 yards.
1-0, and the first half was now a chase.
We did make chances when we were not busy wasting the opportunity for a final ball, but Koln’s Timo Horn was equal to Olivier Giroud’s header, and Theo Walcott wasted a good chance when found in a good position.
The first half was frustrating, and the boos that followed our players trudging off the pitch were born from a performance that was quite flat at times.
The second half was different though. With a much changed side, we began to find our verve, and it took five minutes to get the equaliser.
Theo Walcott was at the centre of the action, and his finishing may have been wayward, but his positioning and running could not be faulted. He was found with a superb ball from Mohamed Elneny, and his touch took him wide. His cross was deflected upwards, and the rampaging bull that is Sead Kolasinac took just one touch to lash a volley past the Koln keeper Timo Horn.
From there, it was all Arsenal, and we were looking fully intent on getting the win, as opposed to the first half when there was just vague interest.
Then, there was a sight to behold for all Gooners to rejoice in. Something that has the potential to change our season dramatically.
It wasn’t Jack Wilshere making an appearance, although he could make a huge dent.
It was the return of Alexis.
Sure, he has made appearances this season, but the goal he scored in this game was pure Chilean spice.
Taking the ball from out wide, he drifted inside, beat two players and from 25 yards, curled an exquisite effort into the top corner, where no goalkeeper’s fingers dare to tread. It was beautiful, it was Alexis.
Whilst he may still want to leave, my love for him will be compromised. However, I say we play him until his legs fall off. Make use of him in the short space of time we have him.
There was time for one more goal, and it was Hector Bellerin who scored it. Theo Walcott was again involved. Alexis and Big Sead interchanged well, and the Bosnian crossed in. Jack Wilshere dummied it and left it for Theo who took a shot which Horn saved well. The rebound though, fell for the onrushing Bellerin who did manage to beat the German.
A job well done, and the Europa League has been started well. We can really make a go of this competition and it was a big plus that we fought back against a team who were better than their domestic form suggested.
Not only that, our team was massively different than the one we saw last weekend – and very different to the one that will line up against Chelsea this Sunday.
The way we deal with the short recovery time will be crucial, but we have good form against the Blues recently. Time to convert that to a performance away from home for once.