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Sporting CP Chase Arsenal Out Of Europa League

posted by Dawson at Friday, March 17, 2023 Comment | 0

Following a 3-3 aggregate stalemate, Sporting CP are into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League (UEL) after Nuno Santos emerged a hero to give his side a 5-3 success via penalties, with an almighty long-range effort from Pedro Gonçalves seeing this last-16 tie go the whole distance. NairaLux Reports

Victorious in both of their previous two-legged UEFA ties against Portuguese clubs, Arsenal were clear pre-match favourites to proceed, but suffered an early setback when defender Takehiro Tomiyasu was forced off, with Ben White coming on in his place. This didn’t perturb the current Premier League leaders though, and they took the lead on the 19-minute mark when stand-in skipper Granit Xhaka fired home on the rebound after Gabriel Martinelli’s shot was saved.

However, Arsenal’s strong start was then further marred by injury just two minutes later, and this time it was William Saliba who couldn’t continue, for a second defensive casualty in quick succession. Even so, the North Londoners were still looking confident at the other end of the pitch, as Martinelli had a shot saved low down, before Gabriel Jesus was denied by Antonio Adán. Meanwhile, the closest Sporting came to scoring in the first half was when Manuel Ugarte’s 25-yard effort in stoppage time took a deflection and just evaded the left post.

Sporting were the better side in the opening stages of the second half, and they drew level in stunning fashion when Gonçalves regained possession in midfield and unleashed an effort from just inside Arsenal’s half which looped over the helpless Aaron Ramsdale to make it 1-1 on the night. Arsenal had completely lost any control they had on the game, as Paulinho glanced a header just over the bar from a corner, before Marcus Edwards was denied in a one-on-one situation as Ramsdale bravely blocked the former Spurs youth.

The extent to which the Lions had turned the tide was summed up by the fact that Arsenal’s first shot of the second half didn’t arrive until the 79th minute, when Fabio Vieira’s free-kick was pushed away by Adán. The end of normal time undoubtedly suited Arsenal, who needed to regroup and try to wrestle back control. They arguably did so on the balance of play too, as Sporting again began to soak up pressure, and substitute Leandro Trossard came close to restoring the hosts’ lead seven minutes into ET, when his shot was saved onto the post by Adán.

Ultimately there was nothing to separate the sides, despite a point-blank save from Adán against Gabriel in the dying moments of second-half ET that had the Emirates on its feet, leaving an almighty war in the capital to be settled by a dreaded penalty shootout. With the shootout standing at 4-3 in the visitors' favour after Martinelli sickeningly saw his effort saved, it was down to Santos to keep his nerves as the ninth penalty taker, and he made no mistake to secure a memorable success for the Portuguese side, while extending Arsenal’s wait for continental silverware to 29 years.

NairaLux Man of the Match: Pedro Gonçalves (Sporting CP)

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