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Arsenal boss Emery defends team selection after BATE Borisov loss

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Arsenal manager Unai Emery has come out to defend his team selection after losing to BATE Borisov 1-0 in Europa League play on Thursday in Belarus.

Emery dropped playmaker Mesut Ozil in his ongoing feud with the German international, saying before the match that Ozil was a healthy scratch. After the loss, Emery was quick to defend his team selection, going so far as to say his team should have won despite the final scoreline.

“Last week we won and we played with the same players,” Emery said after the game. “For me today there was no difference to the performance. We deserved to win but didn’t get the result.”

“They were very organized defensively and they found the moment in the game. It’s not for one player or another. We can win with every player and lose with the same players.”

Arsenal held 77% possession and out-shot BATE 16-6, but each side picked out just three on target. Emery preached patience on multiple levels, saying his players need to control their emotions, and the fans need to understand that there is still a second leg to go.

“It’s the first match,” said Emery of the situation, with the second leg coming from the Emirates next Thursday. “We are going to play another 90 minutes next week and I’m sure it’s going to be different.

“Our big opportunity is next week at home. Today is not the result we wanted. We deserved more but they worked for this. Next week is going to be different with our supporters.”

Emery continued to talk about his players keeping their cool, and said he spoke with Alexandre Lacazette, who was sent off for a late elbow. “I didn’t see the action [Lacazette’s foul] but we need to control the frustration,” Emery said. “It’s bad news, this red card. Next week we won’t play with [Lacazette]. But it gives chances for another player.”

Ozil could be in contention to come back into the team in Lacazette’s absence, or Emery could turn to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a lone striker up front with a number of changes behind him, potentially including a return for Aaron Ramsey who missed the first leg with a knee problem.

BATE Borisov takes 1st leg lead v. Arsenal

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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  • Dragun scores before halftime
  • Gunners have 77 percent possession
  • Both teams but three shots on target
  • Lacazette sent off

BATE Borisov stunned Arsenal with a 1-0 Europa League first leg win at Borisov Arena on Thursday,

A free kick from Igor Stasevich was headed home by Stanislav Dragun in the 45th minute for the lone goal of the game.

The second leg is Thursday at the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Alexandre Lacazette had a goal called back for Arsenal, and capped his day with an 85th minute red card.

Lacazette swung his arm backward and caught Aleksandar Filipovic, and will be set for multiple games on the bench.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Europa League, LIVE — Arsenal, Chelsea begin first legs

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The way it looks, Arsenal and Chelsea may need a Europa League title to revisit the hallowed grounds of the Champions League.

[ FOLLOW: Europa League scores ]

Arsenal goes first, its Round of 32 first leg set for a 12:55 p.m. ET kickoff at Borisov Arena against BATE Borisov.

Alexandre Lacazette leads the line for Arsenal in Belarus, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Denis Suarez on the bench.

Chelsea visits Malmo at 3 p.m. ET.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
Lazio v. Sevilla
Rennes v. Real Betis
Slavia Prague v. Genk
Olympiacos v. Dynamo Kiev
Galatasaray v. Benfica
Rapid Vienna v. Inter Milan
Krasnodar v. Bayer Leverkusen
BATE Borisov v. Arsenal

3 p.m. ET
Club Brugge v. Red Bull Salzburg
Malmo v. Chelsea
Zurich v. Napoli
Celtic v. Valencia
Sporting Lisbon v. Villarreal
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Eintracht Frankfurt
Viktoria Plzen v. Dinamo Zagreb

Champions League wrap: PAOK, PSV have big away days

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Liverpool still has hope of joining Pot 2 in this season’s UEFA Champions League, as big time underdogs PAOK Salonika picked up a valuable away goal and 1-1 draw at Benfica in the first leg of their UCL playoff round tie.

[ WATCH: Lichaj assists for Hull ]

The Reds will provide the possibility of a horror group if Benfica wins, which was widely expected, moving Liverpool from Pot 2 to 3 and leaving open the possibility of a group like Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, and Inter Milan.

The second legs are Aug. 29, while three more ties begin Wednesday.

Here’s what happened Tuesday in Belarus, Portugal, and Serbia.

Benfica 1-1 PAOK Salonika

PAOK is the bookies’ biggest underdog in the round, and Pizzi’s first half stoppage time penalty had things looking like business as usual in Portugal.

But Egyptian winger Amr Warda found Sebastian Varela’s shot off the cross bar and deposited the rebound to give PAOK the upper hand heading back to Greece.

BATE Borisov 2-3 PSV Eindhoven

Goals for each side inside of the final three minutes at Borisov Arena in Belarus provided a thrilling ending, but may take a lot of the luster off the second leg in the Netherlands.

PSV led 2-1 on goals from Gaston Pereiro and El Tri star Hirving Lozano, when 37-year-old Alexander Hleb — yes, the former Arsenal and Barcelona man — scored an 88th minute equalizer. A minute later, Donyell Malin scored to put the Dutch side back on top.

Red Star Belgrade 0-0 Red Bull Salzburg

The Austrian visitors had a lot of the ball, but shots were even as the tie leaves Serbia without a goal.

Walcott brace helps Arsenal top BATE in Europa League action

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The Gunners have certainly found their groove as of late, and Arsene Wenger‘s side has extended its unbeaten streak to six matches across all competitions with a win on Thursday against BATE Borisov.

Arsenal topped their Belarusian opposition, 4-2, behind a pair of first-half goals from Theo Walcott, while Rob Holding and Olivier Giroud also chimed in at Borisov Arena.

[ MORE: Man City confirms Mendy will undergo surgery for ACL injury ]

It took the Gunners just nine minutes to find the back of the net, when Walcott finished a close-range effort, before doubling the lead in the 22nd minute after a terrible giveaway by BATE goalkeeper Denis Shcherbitski.

Rob Holding soon gave Arsenal its third in the 25th minute (his first for the club) when a corner kick came his way. Per Mertesacker‘s initial header came into the path of the defender and deflected into Holding’s leg before entering the goal.

The home side manage to get a goal back before the half-hour mark though, when Mirko Ivanic’s powerful header beat David Ospina, despite the keeper getting a faint touch to the attempt.

The second half was made more difficult for BATE right out of the gate though, as Olivier Giroud struck his 100th Arsenal goal just minutes into the stanza from the penalty spot.

BATE closed the deficit to 4-2 with under 25 minutes remaining through Mikhail Gordeichuk, and continued to test the visitors in the latter stages of the match.

Arsenal sits in full control of Group H on six points following the team’s second straight win, while BATE drops to third place.