Sporting CP and Arsenal played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Estadio Jose Alvalade tonight to set up a fascinating Europa League last-16 second-leg next in north London next Thursday.
The first big chance fell to Sporting after six minutes as Pedro Goncalves neatly took down a long ball, cut inside Arsenal debutant Jakub Kiwior but snatched his effort wide of Matt Turner’s far post.
Following their early scare, Arsenal took control of the game and went ahead after 22 minutes as William Saliba headed home from Fabio Vieira’s pinpoint corner.
Oleksandr Zinchenko and Sebastian Coates were involved in an off-the-ball tussle in the immediate aftermath of the goal with both players picking up bookings. The latter will be suspended for the second leg at the Emirates Stadium next week.
The home side equalised after 34 minutes as Goncalo Inacio glanced his header past a hapless Turner who failed to command his area from Marcus Edwards’ inswinging corner. The goal came as a big blow to the Gunners who were in cruise control up until that point.
Turner got down well to deny a fierce long-range strike by Edwards on 39 minutes as Sporting grew in confidence following their leveller.
Arsenal came within inches of regaining their lead a few minutes later when Antonio Adan made a crucial save to deny Granit Xhaka’s downward header. Goalline technology showed that some, but not all of the ball had crossed the line.
Turner breathed a huge sigh of relief in added time of the first half as he clumsily gave the ball away trying to play out from the back but Sporting were unable to punish the American goalkeeper.
The Gunners were presented with two big chances within a minute of each other early in the second half. Zinchenko deceived the Sporting defence with a clever disguised pass to find Gabriel Martinelli.
However, Adan smothered the Brazilian well to keep out his dinked effort. A minute later, Vieira saw his effort from just outside the box roll a whisker wide of the post.
Paulinho gave the home side a shock lead after 55 minutes firing home into a practically empty net after Turner parried an effort straight into his path. This goal came against the run of play as the Arsenal defence were punished for failing to clear their lines.
Just shy of the hour mark Jerry St Juste showed tremendous recovery pace to get back and make a last-ditch challenge to deny Martinelli, who had rounded the goalkeeper following an incredible solo run.
Arsenal’s defence was then carved open and Paulinho had a free shot on goal, but he skewed his effort way off target with a wild strike.
Paulinho’s miss came back to bite the home side a minute later as the Gunners made it 2-2 with the help of a freak ricochet.
Granit Xhaka’s attempted ball into the box deflected off Hidemasa Morita and trickled past Adan into the bottom corner to put Mikel Arteta’s side back on level terms.
After a frantic opening 20 minutes to the second half, the game settled down with no real big chances for either side.
Arsenal controlled the game in terms of possession and will be content to take this result back to the Emirates next Thursday in front of their home fans.
Ruben Amorim’s side will also be without Coates and Morita for the return leg following the yellow cards they picked up tonight.
Sporting CP player ratings
Antonio Adan (7/10) – Made some important saves and there was not a lot he could have done for either of Arsenal’s goals.
Jerry St. Juste (7/10) – Made an important last-ditch challenge to deny Martinelli in the second half and was influential all evening.
Sebastian Coates (6/10) – A steady performance from the former Liverpool man at the heart of Sporting’s defence, but is now suspended for the second leg following a needless booking.
Goncalo Inacio (7/10) – A solid performance from the young left-sided defender who scored a terrific glancing header to make it 1-1.
Ricardo Esgaio (7/10) – Showed good energy down the right flank and created a couple of chances.
Pedro Goncalves (6/10) – Missed a big chance early on and performed largely below his usual standards.
Hidemasa Morita (5/10) – Scored an own goal and picked up a yellow card which will see him miss the second leg.
Matheus Reis (6/10) – A steady defensive display but did not offer too much going forward.
Marcus Edwards (8/10) – Looked bright throughout and was a constant danger to Arsenal’s defence.
Paulinho (7/10) – Gave Sporting a 2-1 lead but missed a golden opportunity to extend that lead to 3-1.
Francisco Trincao (6/10) – Went on some good runs but was not too involved.
Nuno Santos (6/10)
Ousmane Diomande (6/10)
Youssef Chermiti (5/10)
Abdul Issahaku (N/A)
Arsenal player ratings
Matt Turner (4/10) – Looked unconvincing with the ball at his feet all evening and should have done better for both goals.
Ben White (6/10) – Solid defensive display but was unable to link up with Saka much tonight.
William Saliba (8/10) *MOTM* – Was Arsenal’s best defender on the night and scored a great header to give his side the lead.
Jakub Kiwior (6/10) – Should have done better for Sporting’s equaliser and was guilty of giving the ball away on a couple of occasions.
Oleksandr Zinchenko (7/10) – Was up for the fight and created a great chance for Martinelli.
Jorginho (6/10) – Was unable to dictate the tempo of the game but was secure in possession.
Fabio Vieira (7/10) – Had some nice moments and was unlucky not to score.
Granit Xhaka (6/10) – A steady midfield display and forced the equaliser.
Bukayo Saka (6/10) – A quiet game for Saka considering his usual high standards.
Gabriel Martinelli (7/10) – Was a threat on several occasions and did well to adapt to an unfamiliar central role.
Reiss Nelson (6/10) – Looked lively in moments but failed to have any real impact.
Takehiro Tomiyasu (7/10)
Thomas Partey (6/10)
Emile Smith Rowe (6/10)
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