Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang produced a European masterclass to guide us through to the Europa League final.
Our top scorer netted a memorable hat-trick – and had a hand in the other – as we tamed the intimidating Mestalla with a fine attacking display to win the tie 7-3 on aggregate.
The opening 10 minutes were played out to a deafening din inside the stadium, with the hosts starting strongly, pinning us back in our own half. And the decibel level rose yet higher when Kevin Gameiro put Valencia ahead.
The striker slid home from close range after we were caught on the break. Ainsley Maitland-Niles had just had a shot saved, and Valencia exploited the gap left on our right hand side to create the opener.
It was just what the vociferous home fans wanted. But six minutes later they were silenced by a magnificent Aubameyang strike. He raced onto Alexandre Lacazette’s flick on and flashed home a superb volley from 20 yards.
Aubameyang tried to return the favour for his strike partner as the half drew to a close, setting him up after a tremendous run on the right wing, but Lacazette’s shot clipped the post before going wide.
He made amends in the second half though, superbly held the ball up inside the area, wriggled into a shooting position and planted his shot low into the corner
It meant Valencia now needed to score four more to qualify, and you could sense the belief ebbing away from the home team.
They briefly rallied when Gameiro scored his second with a scrappy close-range finish, but Aubameyang restored our lead when he slid in at the near post to convert Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ excellent low cross.
Then came the icing on the cake. Aubameyang completed his first Gunners hat-trick late on, lashing home from the near post.
It was the perfect way to round off a wonderful, and the Gabon striker’s performance even brought warm applause from the home fans at the final whistle.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Click here for a play-by-play account of the semi-final second leg win in Spain.
Unai Emery made three changes from the side that drew with Brighton at the weekend, bringing in Ainsley Maitland-Niles after his domestic suspension, Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech in goal. It meant the front three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil all retained their places, as the Gunners went hunting vital away goals.
WHAT IT MEANS
We’re going (back) to Baku! For the first time since 2006 we will be appearing in a European final, and it will be played in the Azerbaijan capital – the scene of our 3-0 win over Qarabag earlier in the season.
And who will we face? Our London rivals, Chelsea. The Blues saw off Frankfurt in Thursday’s other semi-final, with Kepa Arrizabalaga saving two penalties during a tense shoot-out at Stamford Bridge.