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Europa League

After chaotic delay, Arsenal outclass Cologne in second half

Arsenal have beaten Cologne 3-1 in a Europa League match that will be remembered for the troubled scenes outside the Emirates Stadium that preceded it. Elsewhere, Hertha Berlin drew while Hoffenheim let a lead slip.

Arsenal 3-1 FC Cologne
(Kolasinac 49', Sanchez 66', Bellerin 82' - Cordoba 10')

Emirates Stadium, London

It wasn't the football that would dominate the front pages in Britain on Friday, but rather news of the delay and the scenes of thousands of exuberant Cologne fans on the streets of London. "Gate crashers" was the Express Sport headline, several publications went with variations of the theme "chaos," while the ever-measured and understated (sarcasm alert) Mail Sport went with "Fear and Fire."

Fußball UEFA Europa League Arsenal - 1. FC Köln (Imago/Focus Images/A. Stanford)

Jhon Cordoba's goal from range was enabled by David Ospina going rogue

Kick off was delayed by an hour in London. This was the upshot of a cocktail of 20,000 sometimes unruly traveling fans, an away seat allocation of less than 3,000, and the fact that getting hold of midweek tickets at the overpriced Emirates is usually child's play, if you're willing to pay. Thousands of fans were planning to take up residence in the home section, which is not allowed in Britain, and hundreds more had traveled without tickets, hoping to get one on site.

DW's Matt Ford spent hours observing the melee.

On pitch, Jhon Cordoba capitalized on a goalkeeping howler from David Ospina to score a lob from at least 30 meters out just 10 minutes into the match. Arsenal looked limp during the first period, but came out revitalized from the half time break. An early goal from Schalke old-boy Sead Kolasinac set the comeback in motion as Cologne - facing their own domestic problems, not unlike Arsenal - couldn't cope with their opponent's individual class. 

Nothing symbolized this better than Alexis Sanchez goal that gave Arsenal the lead. The world class run and finish is not something Cologne's attackers would be able to regularly replicate.

Fußball UEFA Europa League Arsenal - 1. FC Köln (Reuters/Action Images/J. Sibley)

He may want out, but Alexis Sanchez is still Arsenal's brightest star by far

Hoffenheim 1-2 Sporting Braga
(Wagner 24' - Teixeira 45', Sousa 50')

Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena, Sinsheim

Braga hit Hoffenheim with a pair of sucker punches either side of half time to chalk up a very impressive away win. The Portuguese visitors may have had fewer shots and less of the ball, but looked compact at the back and slick when chances to attack came their way. 

UEFA Europa League 2017/18 | TSG Hoffenheim vs. Sporting Braga | TOR Hoffenheim (Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach)

When Wagner headed home, Hoffenheim seemed to have it all in hand

Even Sandro Wagner's return to the starting line-up, which he celebrated with a first Europa League goal, was not enough to propel Julian Nagelsmann's side towards three points. Kerem Demirbay was also busy pulling the strings in midfield while Andrej Kramaric had a string of good opportunities in the second half to level the score. 

The result therefore becomes a rare black mark on Hoffenheim's early season record. Although with five group games still to play, Nagelsmann is unlikely to panic just yet. Not least considering that Braga pose probably the toughest test for Hoffenheim in Group C. Istanbul Basaksehir and Ludogorets Rasgrad played out a goalless draw in the other group game.

Full time: Hertha 0-0 Athletic Bilbao
Olympiastadion, Berlin

UEFA Europa League | Hertha BSC vs Athletic Bilbao (REUTERS/A. Schmidt)

Given their form, Hertha and Mitchell Weiser would probably settle for the point

Bookmakers' underdogs Hertha Berlin secured a good point in front of a modest crowd. However, they might have been disappointed not to claim all three. In the second half, in particular, the hosts controlled the game against their Basque visitors, with Salomon Kalou looking particularly dangerous on the flanks. Keeper Thomas Kraft also made an important early save at his near post - unlike almost every other Bundesliga keeper in Europe this week - to deny Iker Muniain. 

There follows our coverage of the evening's chaotic events across all three games as they happened.

FULL TIME! 

90+1' -- Two additional minutes and Cologne's visitors are still singing, as the home stands empty.

82' -- GOAL! Arsenal 3-1 Cologne (Hector Bellerin). The gamble didn't pay for Cologne. Kolasinac involved again down the left, crossed to Walcott, whose shot was only parried by Timo Horn. Cue Hector Bellerin to react quickest and probably put this game to bed.

78' -- Peter Stöger knows that a 2-1 defeat is little better than 3-1 or 4-1. So it's time to throw the kitchen sink on.

75' -- Alexis Sanchez has a go with a long-range free kick, meat and drink for Timo Horn.

72' -- Jhon Cordoba with a big chance racing clear down the inside right channel. He elected to shoot and did test Ospina at his near post, but the Spaniard wasn't about to get mugged twice in a night.

66' -- GOAL! Arsenal 2-1 Cologne (Alexis Sanchez). Screamer. An utter screamer from Arsenal's disgruntled superstar. He was released down the left, had many options to pass and spurned the lot. Cutting inside onto his right foot, Sanchez made just enough space to curl a shot towards the top corner. Nothing Timo Horn could have done. That strike made Andriy Yarmolenko's last night look imprecise.

64' -- Huge stop Timo Horn. Really quick off his line to deny Ainsley Maitland-Niles as he broke free in the box. 

55' -- Schalke spotted their alumnus' goal. I wonder if they spied his Nordkurve t-shirt under the Arsenal jersey too. A right royal blue... 

49' -- GOAL! Arsenal 1-1 Cologne (Sead Kolasinac). The Schalke old boy, who brings some very rare grit to a Wenger outfit, smashes a volley into the bottom corner. The build-up was scrappy (Theo Walcott's cross was actually blocked) but Kolasinac made the most of the situation.

Arsenal vs. Cologne - Second half begins.

Arsenal vs. Cologne - HALF TIME. 

43' -- Stationary attackers, lateral passes, nobody looking for space. Arsenal looking limp and lifeless on the ball for the most part, despite enjoying a lot of possession.

A quick tweet update from the Olympic Stadium. Hash tag #FullHouse:

35' -- Hector did come back on the pitch, but now he's making way. Milos Jojic will replace him. 

30' -- Jonas Hector clutching his right calf after a collision in the penalty area. Hobbling off to sidelines for treatment. Would be the biggest loss Cologne could suffer, save perhaps keeper Timo Horn.

28' -- Lukas Klünter fires wide from range. Even against non-Premiership opposition, Arsenal looking lethargic. Arsene Wenger's brow looking a touch more furrowed than usual.

22' -- "That's more like him," Cologne follower Felix Tamsut jokes in our office as Jhon Cordoba has a chance to cross with his weaker left peg and scuffs it completely. 

14' -- The stadium famed for introducing England's first season tickets costing more than 1,000 pounds rarely bounces like this on game day. And the even better news is that the Cologne fans, in their red and white, are color coordinated.

10' -- GOAL! Arsenal 0-1 Cologne (Jhon Cordoba). Cordoba can hit the target! And from range as well. Arsenal's David Ospina bounded out of his goal, cleared poorly, and Cordoba collected the loose ball and fired it over his head into the open goal. He's had a slow start in a Cologne jersey in the Bundesliga, could that give him a spark?

7' -- Cologne fans making themselves heard in the early minutes, and making themselves seen to. Matt Ford's spotted the first flares of the evening: 

KICK OFF - Arsenal vs. Cologne. An hour later than scheduled, we're underway at the Emirates. Given the game's symbolism, this match is set to dominate our live blog for the next two hours. We will keep you posted on goals from Berlin, of course.

HALF TIME.
Hertha Berlin 0-0 Athletic Bilbao

45+1' -- The half ends with a half-volley from Vladimir Darida that goes just a few inches over the bar. Hertha's brightest moment of the game to date.

44' -- Half time approaches as Hertha enjoy a period of pressure. Some messy volleyball scenes in the penalty area after a corner just now, but each attempted shot was blocked. 

29' -- Update: There's still a game on in Berlin. Neither side has scored. 

An update via Matt Ford outside the Emirates for us this evening. The crowds outside the ground were thinning out as authorities battle to ready the game for kick off 40 minutes from now. Matt, who had just gone inside the stadium himself, also mentioned how the traveling Cologne fans were laying claim to some segments of Arsenal's home supporters bloc.

To recap if you're behind on this, Arsenal made just 2,900 away tickets available officially, and asked Cologne fans not to purchase home tickets. That (muted) appeal proved about as effective as a chocolate teapot as around 20,000 Cologne fans bought tickets for the club's first European fixture in a quarter of a century. This led to considerable delays and isolated scenes of violence outside the ground as stewards were left with the quandary of supporters with genuine tickets but for the wrong parts of the stadium, and others who had traveled to London in hope of picking up a ticket on site from scalps or other unofficial sources.

9' -- Thomas Kraft's working overtime early on in the Hertha Berlin goal. Iker Muniain has had a couple of early shots as Hertha fail to make this look like a home game.

KICK OFF --- Hertha Berlin vs. Athletic Bilbao. No rest for the wicked on a Europa League group night. 

FULL TIME.

90' -- Five extra minutes will be played. 

88' -- Dangerous Hoffenheim free kick. Demirbay had it all to himself but crossed rather than shooting, putting the defense totally off balance. (And here, an open appeal to all footballers: DO THAT MORE OFTEN!) However, Hübner couldn't connect properly. 

80' -- Hoffenheim have 14 shots to Braga's seven so far. But as any Dortmund fan will tell you, that's not the stat that matters.

77' -- Kramaric once again! This time he tries a bicycle kick from close in. Off target.

75' -- Andrej Kramaric is the next to arrive at the far post, but he can't make proper contact on the volley. Hoffenheim continue to knock on the door, but Braga also look dangerous on the break. Clock's ticking for them to salvage something here. 

70' -- Patrick Ochs comes off the bench and very nearly nets with his first touch. Demirbay, who's been lively, made the chance, but Ochs couldn't get to the cross.

64' -- They are still playing in Sinsheim, we promise! Hoffenheim are now back on the offensive after falling behind. Back-to-back corners here, with Matheus palming a Hübner header over the bar after the first. The second was dealt with in defense.

And here's the confirmation from FC Köln and Arsenal themselves. Kick off set to be an hour later than scheduled.

More off-pitch news: We're getting first reports of a one-hour delay to kick off in the Arsenal Cologne match. This would seem to make sense, given the reports of trouble at the turnstiles.

Moving back away from the Sinsheim action, Hertha Berlin's team will be relying on Mitchell Weiser, Salomon Kalou and captain Vedad Ibisevic to provide the attacking impetus. It's a European return for the capital club, too, albeit after just 7 years, not 25.

50' -- GOAL! Hoffenheim 1-2 Braga (Dyego Sousa). A slick move down the right unpicks Hoffneheim's back three, and Sousa's on hand to tap home at the back post. Braga have done well to turn the tables.

Meanwhile, we have line ups for the Cologne and Hertha Berlin late games. Alexis Sanchez starts for Arsenal, but Mesut Özil isn't even in the squad. Per Mertesacker will also start and captain the Gunners. For Cologne, Konstantin Rausch will try to fill the troublesome left-back spot that Jonas Hector is now too important to occupy. And in defense, 21-year-old Spaniard Jorge Mere makes his Cologne debut. No pressure, sonny! 

Second half begins.

Half-time sub for Hoffenheim: Benjamin Hübner replaces Ermin Bicakcic.

Half time.

45+1' -- GOAL! Hoffenheim 1-1 Braga (Joao Carlos Teixeira). Hoffenheim's lead evaporates on the stroke of half time. That puts a downer on Nagelsmann's team talk. 

42' -- Booking for Howie Nordtveit, after a pretty clear foul near the corner flag. He seems to think it didn't need a card, though.

36' -- Big chance! Andrej Kramaric almost makes it two. Demirbay sets Nico Schulz free down the left, his low cross made it across the box, but Matheus did very well to block the shot and his defenders took care of the rest.

Off the pitch, our man at the Emirates tonight Matt Ford has seen some unrest at the Arsenal turnstiles, as a rather larger contingent of away fans than is formally sanctioned seek to sneak their way into this historic game. You'd almost expect Arsenal to simply rejoice at having sold all their exceedingly pricey tickets.

26' -- Corner Hoffenheim, who are building the momentum.

24' -- GOAL! Hoffenheim 1-0 Braga (Sandro Wagner). Hoffenheim have their hit man back! This time Kaderabek turns provider, doing very well to claim a 50-50 ball and then deliver the cross. Wagner rose highest and headed home.

23' -- Crossbar! Demirbay floats in a dangerous back-post cross, Pavel Kaderabek arrives and strikes the volley well. It rattles the frame of Matheus' goal.

20' -- It's been a quiet opening half of the opening half: Kerem Demibay's blazed one over the bar; Braga have had a pop from stupid range, and Baumann duly gobbled it up; and Sandro Wagner failed to get a decisive touch on what might have been a dangerous chance in the box.

7' -- The hosts have had more of the ball early on, besieging Sporting Braga without yet creating any real scoring chances. 

KICK OFF in Sinsheim! 

The focus might understandably be on some 20,000 FC Cologne fans taking London by storm, but it's Julian Nagelsmann's Hoffenheim who are first to take to the field in the Europa League on Thursday. 

Hoffenheim's line-up looks strong, with Sandro Wagner back in action up front. The Portuguese visitors to Sinsheim finished fifth in the domestic league last season.