After a thrilling 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 tie, Arsenal and Sporting faced off again at the Emirates on Thursday. This game, much like the first, was end to end throughout, with both sides playing aggressive.
For much of the game, Sporting looked the two more likely to score. The Portuguese side not only ripped more shots in the direction of Aaron Ramsdale. Many of the chances created came oh so close. In the first half, though, they all were left wanting.
Instead, it was Arsenal that grabbed the opener. And, at that time, it poised to be a similar showing for what Arsenal does in the Premier League. Grab the lead, dominate possession and shut the game down. Yet, two first-half substitutions due to injury would make that task more challenging.
Jorginho played an inch-perfect pass into the run of Gabriel Martinelli. The Brazilian’s attempt met the leg of Adán in goal. However, the rebound came out perfectly to Granit Xhaka, who lashed the ball across the box and into the far corner of the net.
After that, both sides had strong chances. Gabriel Jesus smacked the gloves of Antonio Adán after a clever run through the Sporting defense. Then, just before halftime, Sporting fired one of its many shots just wide of the post.
That was a theme on the night. Sporting had the mentality to shoot, even if most never required action from Aaron Ramsdale.
Stunning strike brings Sporting level
It only took one of those attempts on target to make the difference for Sporting. Few could have expected such an audacious attempt, though.
Pedro Gonçalves claimed a loose ball at the halfway line. He took it just over five yards into the Arsenal half and let fly. The camera brought in a backpedaling Aaron Ramsdale, but the ball kept floating in the air. It eventually tucked in just under the crossbar, despite Aaron Ramsdale flailing his hands at the ball.
After that, Sporting collected more and more chances. The best of those was a breakaway from Marcus Edwards. The Tottenham Hotspur academy product had a chance to sink a club he surely has disdain for. However, the face of Aaron Ramsdale denied the shot.
The game reached extra time in search of a winner.
Arsenal and Sporting go beyond the 90 in Europa League
Leandro Trossard had the first major chance of the additional 30 minutes. However, Adán met the challenge. The goalkeeper came out to meet the Belgian on the breakaway, throwing out a right fist that deflected the attempt. The ball then squirmed right and clamored off the post.
Adán would prove to be, on multiple occasions, the difference in this game. Not only did he have more splendid saves in extra time. He had an all-important save when the 120 minutes concluded.
With both clubs perfect from 12 yards, Gabriel Martinelli stepped up for Arsenal. In what was a weak effort, Adán saved the waist-high shot to his left. That put Sporting on the cusp of advancing.
Nuno Santos put his attempt away, giving the visitors the win, 5-3 on penalties, after a 3-3 score on aggregate.
A silver lining for Arsenal? It can now focus solely on the Premier League title race. The Gunners’ biggest rival, Manchester City, still has eyes on the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League.
PHOTO: IMAGO / PA Images
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