Arsenal beat Cardiff on sombre night amid Sala tributes

  • Arsenal beat Cardiff City 2-1 at The Emirates
  • Floral tributes laid to missing Emiliano Sala before kickoff
  • Arsenal were frustrated by the visitors before halftime
  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's penalty broke the deadlock
  • Alexandre Lacazette doubled Arsenal's lead with a late strike
  • Cardiff's Nathaniel Mendez-Laing scored a late consolation
  • Cardiff host Bournemouth next, Arsenal at Manchester City

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette struck second-half goals to earn a 2-1 win over a relegation-threatened Cardiff City who were playing their first game since Emiliano Sala's disappearance.

A sombre night at the Emirates Stadium began with tributes paid to Sala who has not been seen since a plane that was bringing him to Britain after his transfer from French club Nantes vanished over the English Channel on Jan. 21.

Aubameyang slotted a 66th-minute penalty past Neil Etheridge after Bruno Manga had fouled Sead Kolasinac.

Unai Emery's side then made their overwhelming territorial superiority count as Lacazette scored a beauty in the 83rd minute, dribbling past Cardiff skipper Sol Bamba before drilling a shot into the corner.

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing scored a stoppage-time consolation for Cardiff, who remain third from bottom despite manager Neil Warnock saying it was their best performance of the season.

"We talked about Emiliano (Sala) before the game and I thought it was appropriate that we gave a good account of ourselves against a good side and I thought we could've won the game," Warnock said.

Cardiff skipper Bamba and Arsenal captain Mesut Ozil placed bunches of daffodils on the pitch before kickoff as a mark of respect for the 28-year-old Sala who had been on his way to join up with his new club.

Sala's photo was displayed on the video screens and visiting supporters held up yellow placards while one banner read: "We never saw you play, we never saw you score, but Emiliano, our beautiful Bluebird, we will love you forever more."

The matchday programme listed Sala in Cardiff's squad with a daffodil, an emblem of Wales, next to his name.

Despite the difficult circumstances Cardiff worried Arsenal and Bobby Reid twice went close while Oumar Niasse had a decent appeal for a penalty turned down.

Arsenal took the lead when Manga brought down Kolasinac and Aubameyang converted the spot kick. Lacazette then finished off Cardiff although they did register a goal for the first time in four league games with Mendez-Laing's curler.

A sixth successive home win for fifth-placed Arsenal moved them level on 47 points with Chelsea in the race for a top-four finish. They are also two points clear of Manchester United who could only draw 2-2 at home to Burnley.

Cardiff have 19 points, three behind fourth-from-bottom Southampton.