Football: Pepe redeems himself as Arsenal ease to win at Molde

Arsenal midfielder Nicolas Pepe (centre) in action against Molde. PHOTO: AFP

MOLDE (REUTERS) - Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe put himself back in manager Mikel Arteta's good books with the opening goal in a 3-0 win at Molde on Thursday (Nov 26) to all but assure his side's place in the Europa League knockout stages.

The Ivory Coast international, sent off for a head-butt on Leeds United's Ezgjan Alioski and criticised by Arteta last weekend, produced a fine finish in the 50th minute, shortly after striking the crossbar with a superb curling effort.

Arsenal, disappointing in a drab first half against the Norwegian side they beat 4-1 at home, doubled their lead five minutes later when Reiss Nelson converted a precise low cross.

The double setback knocked the stuffing out of Molde and Arsenal threatened to extend their advantage with Alexander Lacazette denied by home keeper Andreas Linde.

Substitute Folarin Balogun, 19, made it 3-0 to the visitors with his first goal for the club, moments after coming on to silence the few home fans that were allowed inside the stadium.

"I am really pleased," Arteta said of Pepe. "After the disappointment of something negative, you want to see a reaction and I could see from the first minute with his body language that he was ready to act.

"I think he had a great performance, he scored one goal and could have scored another one or two. He created some good moments in the game and worked really hard for the team, so I really like it, I am pleased with that.

"We all know his level, and all the time the question is how often he can get to that level. Today is the example of the level he needs to hit, and he needs to keep doing it."

Arsenal's win left them top of Group B with a maximum 12 points from four games, six clear of Molde.

Rapid Vienna, who have three points, face Dundalk later.

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