Olivier Giroud scored a fantastic late winner as Arsenal edged to their third straight Europa League win by beating 10-man Red Star Belgrade 1-0 in Serbia on Thursday.
Arsene Wenger’s men rode their luck at times in an uninspiring performance, before Giroud struck in the 85th minute after Red Star had seen Milan Rodic sent off.
The Premier League side stay top of Group H, five points clear of Red Star, while Cologne remained pointless after losing 1-0 at BATE Borisov.
Wenger made sweeping changes to his team with Sunday’s Premier League visit to Everton in mind.
Only goalkeeper Petr Cech remained from the starting XI that lost 2-1 at Watford last weekend, as injury-plagued French right back Mathieu Debuchy made his first start for the club in 11 months.
Roared on by a vociferous home crowd, Red Star made a bright start, but it was Arsenal winger Theo Walcott who saw the game’s first real chance saved by the legs of Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
The inexperienced away defenders were lucky not to concede in the 26th minute when Richmond Boakye headed on to the crossbar when unmarked at a corner.
Arsenal were struggling to cope with the pace in the Serbians’ attack, and Cech was forced into a low save to deny Nemanja Radonjic before halftime.
The visitors started the second period with more urgency, as Giroud fired over and Walcott saw his shot smothered by Borjan after being released by Jack Wilshere’s through ball.
Arsenal were given a great chance of snatching all three points when home defender Rodic was given a second yellow card with 10 minutes to play.
The Londoners took it in style with a wonderful goal, as Wilshere’s clever flick was turned across goal by Walcott for Giroud to send an overhead kick spinning into the top corner.