Soccer-Xhaka strike sinks PSV as Arsenal reach Europa League knockout stage

LONDON — Arsenal have progressed to the Europa League knockout stage with two group games to go after Granit Xhaka’s second-half goal secured a 1-0 win over PSV Eindhoven at the Emirates Stadium Thursday.

Victory in the rescheduled Match A, postponed last month following the death of Queen Elizabeth, means Arsenal will finish in the top two of Group A after maintaining their perfect start after four games.

The group winners earn an automatic place in the Round of 16 while the runners-up face one of the third-placed teams leaving the Champions League in a home-and-away playoff tie in February.

“We had some really good moments where we dominated against a really good team. We were missing that final pass or shot but we’re happy to win the game and get through which is the first step,” said Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

“The difference between finishing first and second is big and we want to get the job done (next week).

Arsenal visit PSV next Thursday in the reverse fixture needing a point to secure top spot in the group.

The hosts endured a frustrating first half as they dominated and had nine shots to one from PSV, but struggled to create clear chances and didn’t bother goalkeeper Walter Benitez.

Arsenal also started the second half slowly before Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus all came close to breaking the deadlock, with Xhaka finally giving them a deserved lead in the 71st minute.

Substitute Martin Odegaard played the ball to the right of Takehiro Tomiyasu who found an unmarked Xhaka and the Swiss midfielder swung a half-volley past Benitez for his third goal of the season in all competitions.

Arsenal lead with 12 points, five more than second-placed PSV, with the win leaving them close to sealing top spot.

“We had chance after chance and we didn’t have a chance to score earlier, but we had the passion to keep the ball, to keep creating chances and I think we deserved the win,” Xhaka said. .

“It gives us confidence. Everything is going well for the moment but for us it’s not a surprise, we are working a lot… We wanted to pass and we are very happy.”