Arsenal and Sporting played out to an entertaining 2-2 draw in Portugal on Thursday. The result means that the winner of the second leg Europa League round of 16 tie will advance to the quarterfinals. The Gunners took an early lead on the night, but had to fight back to level the scoreline in the second half.
The hosts nearly went ahead inside the first six minutes of the match though. Highly rated midfielder Pedro Gonçalves broke free of the Gunners defense and race towards goal. Despite cutting back inside the box to neatly get away from William Saliba, Gonçalves put the shot wide of Matt Turner’s post.
Both Arsenal and Sporting have defenders score early
Instead, Saliba put his team ahead just 15 minutes later. Fabio Vieira sent in lobbed corner kick straight to the center back. Saliba would convert the free header passed a diving Antonio Adan. Celebrations by the visitors were at a minimum though. After the goal, players from both teams had to be separated in front of the Sporting net because of a disagreement. Sebastian Coates was booked in the incident, meaning he will miss the second leg of the tie.
Sporting grabbed the equalizer in the 34th minute in a similar style as Saliba’s goal. Gonçalo Inácio nodded in a header from just a few yards away from a corner kick. Arsenal duo Jakub Kiwior and Turner could have made more of an attempt to defend the shot, but the Portugal youth international reacted quicker in the moment.
The visitors nearly went back in front just before the halftime break. Granit Xhaka sent a low shot towards Adan’s goal from yet another dangerous header. Adan was able to get a foot on the ball to deflect it back against the post and into his hands. Replays showed that only about half of the ball crossed the goal line, meaning that the goal couldn’t be given.
Teams trade goals in second half, too
While Arsenal had two exceptional chances to go back in front early in the second half, Sporting would take the edge in the 55th minute. Turner made an initial save from a shot by Gonçalves, but the rebound would fall right to Paulinho. The Sporting attacker would convert the tap-in with Saliba and Ben White flanked on either side of him.
The Gunners leveled the scoreline once again just six minutes later. Xhaka looked to attempt a pass to a teammate near the edge of the box. However, the ball would ricochet off of Sporting midfielder Hidemasa Morita and into the back of the net. The Japan international also picked up a yellow card just minutes prior to the own goal. He will now miss the return game in north London as well.
Neutrals will be hoping for much of the same drama at the Emirates Stadium. The two teams are set to face off in the return game on Thursday, March 16.
PHOTO: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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