On a chilly night in Kiev it was an Arsenal academy product that shone on the European stage.
The promising midfielder Emile Smith Rowe scored once more for his boyhood club in a facile 3-0 Europa League win over Vorskla Poltava.
The 18-year-old Croydon native notched what was his second goal of this European campaign in four appearances to add to the one score he’s gotten from his two League Cup showings this term.
Smith Rowe joined the Gunners’ academy at the age of ten and is one of the most exciting things to roll off its assembly line in recent years.
Having signed a long-term deal with the north London club in July, his progression into the first team ranks is thought to be part of the reason that the club’s hierarchy were willing to play hardball with Aaron Ramsey - appearing alongside him in midfield in the Ukrainian capital - over his contract demands and allow him to walk this summer.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery sent out two other untested academy products on the night, too, with Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock also getting a start after the Spaniard said the club “has to give young players a chance.”
It was to be Smith Rowe that excelled in an attacking midfield role, opening the scoring and proving a bright spark throughout.
He’s now the first Arsenal teenager to notch twice in a European campaign since Theo Walcott managed that feat almost ten years ago.
Former Gunners winger Freddie Ljungberg is now in charge of the club’s u-23 side, in which tonight’s star performer impressed last term.
“Unai has seen a lot, he knows. Emile has a great career in front of him,” the Swede said in September.
Charley Gilmore, Zech Medley and Bukoya Saka came off the bench for the Gunners in Kiev, meaning six teenagers were in the team that finished the game for them.
With top spot in E secured by tonight's victory, Emery and Co. now have Sunday's north London Derby against Tottenham to tune up for.
A win would take them above their old rivals on goal difference.
Emile Smith-Rowe was in the right place at the right time to bag his third goal of the season!
A exciting young talent 💪
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