Paris (AFP) – An emotional Alvaro Morata snapped his recent goal drought to secure a 1-0 win for Chelsea over Hungarian champions Vidi in the Europa League on Thursday, as Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 victory away to Qarabag in Azerbaijan.
Spain striker Morata, without a goal since August 18, wasted a terrific chance in the first half at Stamford Bridge but atoned with a sharp finish on 70 minutes to put Chelsea ahead.
Substitute Ross Barkley also headed against the crossbar, while Kepa Arrizabalaga — the world’s most expensive goalkeeper — produced an excellent save to deny Istvan Kovacs a late equaliser.
“If after a goal he wants to cry, I hope to see him cry very often,” Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri said of Morata, who scored for just the second time in 10 outings this season.
“It’s very important for him to score. I think it’s very important for him to play a very good match. He played a very good match.”
Chelsea head Group L with a maximum six points with PAOK — 4-1 winners over BATE Borisov — level on three points alongside the Belarusian champions.
In Baku, Sokratis bundled in a Nacho Monreal header on four minutes, with Arsenal academy graduate Emile Smith Rowe and French youngster Matteo Guendouzi also scoring their first goals for the club.
The Gunners extended their winning run to eight matches and lead Sporting Lisbon on goal difference at the top of Group E, after the Portuguese side snatched a 2-1 win in Ukraine with two late goals against Vorskla Poltava.
“It was a difficult game. Every match is important for us. We played an away game against a strong opponent,” said Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
“Qarabag is an ambitious team and we had to try a lot today. However, in the end, the desired result was achieved.”
Arsenal’s Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan did not make the trip to Azerbaijan due to diplomatic tensions between the country and his homeland.
– Contrasting fortunes for Old Firm rivals –
Celtic slumped to a 3-1 defeat against Red Bull Salzburg despite taking the lead in Austria.
Odsonne Edouard struck after just two minutes, but a brace from Munas Dabbur and a goal from Japanese forward Takumi Minamino gave Salzburg a second win in two Group B matches.
Celtic lost James Forrest to a straight red card after he upended Andreas Ulmer in the area, with Dabbur converting the resulting penalty to condemn Brendan Rodgers’ side.