Arsenal captain Alexandre Lacazette sent out a powerful message on Thursday night even before their Europa League second leg against Slavia Prague started. Ahead of the match in Prague, Slavia Prague players refused to take the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and given that, Lacazette chose to move a number of steps ahead of his teammates and went close to his opponents when taking the knee. While he took the knee, he also made eye contact and stared at the players, who refused to show support to a movement of worldwide importance.
Czech Republic team Slavia Prague were also embroiled in controversy in the previous Europa League round when their player Ondrej Kudela racially abused Rangers star Glen Kamara. UEFA banned Kudela for 10 games even though the club stood in support of its player and said Kamara had lied about the incident.
The matter saw beautiful connotation during the match when Lacazette scored a brace in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Slavia Prague. Arsenal made the Europa League semis with a 5-1 aggregate win.
Arsenal’s players produced a devastating first-half performance Thursday to beat Slavia Prague and reach the Europa League semifinals. They’ll meet a familiar face there.
Arsenal’s 4-0 win in the Czech capital — secured courtesy of a three-goal burst in six minutes from the 18th — clinched a 5-1 aggregate victory and set up a last-four match against Villarreal, which is managed by Unai Emery.
The Spanish coach spent an underwhelming 18 months at Arsenal as Arsene Wenger’s replacement in 2018-19 and is rebuilding his managerial career at Villarreal, which beat Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 and advanced 3-1 on aggregate.
Manchester United and Roma complete the semifinal lineup.
Arsenal responded to having an early goal by Emile Smith Rowe ruled out for offside by VAR by scoring three times in quick succession, first though Nicolas Pepe in the 18th and then Lacazette — from the penalty spot — and Bukayo Saka.
That meant Slavia, the runaway leader of the Czech league which hadn’t lost at home in nearly 18 months, needed to score four goals to qualify. By halftime, the hosts had essentially given up as they removed some of their key players to preserve their condition for the league.
Lacazette, continuing as striker with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sidelined after contracting malaria, added a fourth in the 77th minute.
“The boys were really at it from the start,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said. “It is a really important win in a crucial moment. We won in a convincing way.”
(With AP inputs)