Arsenal avoided a potential banana skin to reach the Europa League final in style, with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang scoring a hat trick and Alexandre Lacazette bagging the other in an impressive 4-2 win over Valencia, securing a 7-3 aggregate result.
The hosts made a strong start and were rewarded in the 11th minute when Kevin Gameiro tapped home Rodrigo's deflected cross, horribly exposing the Gunners' defence on the counter attack.
However, the visitors strengthened their grip on the tie somewhat against the run of play thanks to a stunning finish from Aubameyang, the Gabon international deliciously half-volleying in from Lacazette's headed flick.
Valencia's enthusiasm drained as Arsenal seized control, and they effectively sealed their spot in Baku's final thanks to Lacazette's smart finish. The Frenchman, who hit the post in the first half, evaded challenges from two defenders before swivelling and firing beyond Neto.
Los Ches equalised on the night thanks to Kevin Gameiro's second, a bundled effort practically walked over the line after he inadvertently intercepted Rodrigo's goal-bound effort, but Aubameyang's second, prodded in from Ainsley Maitland-Niles' low cross, and third, a close range effort hammered into the roof of the net,
Starting XI: Neto (5); Piccini (5), Garay (6), Gabriel (6), Gaya (5); Wass (6), Coquelin (6), Parejo (6), Guedes (6); Rodrigo (7), Gameiro (8).
Substitutes: Soler (5), Torres (5), Mina (5).
Key Talking Point
In a week where first leg leads have meant little to teams in European competition, there was fair reason for Arsenal fans to feel nervy, despite the 3-1 success over Valencia earlier in April.
Cautious optimism had turned to nervy pessimism in the build-up to Thursday night's clash. While Arsenal have been as good as anyone in the Europa League this season, recent league results, most notably the 1-1 draw at home to Brighton, resulted in some fans questioning Unai Emery and his recent tactical decisions and starting lineups.
Making four changes from Sunday's clash with the Seagulls, Emery got pretty much everything spot on, reminding us all of what makes him so astute in the Europa League.
You'd expect there to be plenty of change at the Emirates over the summer, with a number of players who have underperformed especially in away games linked with exits, but there can be no doubting Emery has done the best with what he has inherited. Now it's time for the club to back him in the transfer market and allow him to build the team in his image.
Starting XI: Cech (6); Sokratis (6), Koscielny (6), Monreal (6); Maitland-Niles (7), Torreira (7), Xhaka (6), Kolasinac (6); Ozil (6); Lacazette (9*), Aubameyang (9).
Substitutes: Mkhitaryan (7), Mustafi (6), Guendouzi (6)
STAR MAN - Alexandre Lacazette is a very good footballer. There's not much debate over that one. While Aubameyang obviously ran his close for MOTM, Lacazette's involvement in Arsenal's transitional play edged him ahead of his strike partner.
When Unai Emery needed his strikers to fire on Thursday night, the former Lyon ace answered his manager's call, providing an assist and later scoring to help earn Arsenal a spot in the final and a shot at Champions League qualification.
Arsenal fans rate Lacazette very highly and it's not hard to see why after his performance in Spain. His effectiveness alongside Aubameyang was impressive, and Arsenal will need plenty of good link-up play if they are to triumph in the competition's final.
50 - Since his Arsenal debut in August 2017, Alexandre Lacazette has been directly involved in 50 goals for the club in all competitions, more than any other player (35 goals, 15 assists). Striking. pic.twitter.com/rCh56K3p8D— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 9, 2019
LACAZETTE YOU BEAUTY — Dylan Walsh (@dylanwalsh_) May 9, 2019
Valencia could still finish in La Liga's top four should they overturn the three point gap between between themselves and Getafe, and face a decent test of their credentials with a home tie against eighth placed Alaves on Sunday.
Arsenal will look to secure fifth place in the Premier League when they travel to Burnley on Sunday.