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Europa League Match Report | Arsenal fights to difficult 2-2 draw against Sporting CP to kick-off their EL knockout stage campaign

Goals from William Saliba and a lucky own-goal from Hidemasa Morita allowed the Gunners to come away with a share of the spoils in Lisbon as Mikel Arteta’s men labored on the road amid heavy matchday rotation

Premier League leaders Arsenal can bank on some measure of fortune this evening after Mikel Arteta’s Gunners got off to a difficult start in the round of sixteen in the Europa League in a 2-2 draw against Portuguese giants Sporting CP in Lisbon.

Sporting had a brilliant chance to take the lead in the 6th minute after a ball over the top got the better of the unoccupied right channel before neither Jorginho nor William Saliba was able to snuff the chance out, only for Trincão to scuff his effort wide of Matt Turner’s far post.

Despite Rúben Amorim’s outfit pushing for an opener, French international William Saliba headed Arsenal in front from six yards out in the 22nd minute after Fábio Vieira’s inswinging corner found the 21-year-old who rose highest in the box to set the Gunners on their way.

The Portuguese giants crafted another decent chance in the 34th minute when defender Gonçalo Inácio tested Turner from range, with the American forced to parry the low drive out for a corner, which Sporting ultimately capitalized on after former Tottenham academy graduate Marcus Edwards turned provider after his inswinger found Inácio in the box to head home at the far post to level matters at one-a-piece.

Edwards nearly gave Sporting the lead just minutes later after his own long-range effort tested Turner to his limits at the near post, with the United States international once again forced to concede a corner, which this time, amounted to nothing.

Arsenal nearly resorted their lead just three minutes after the restart when Gabriel Martinelli was gifted a one-on-one chance with Antonio Adán thanks to a fantastic Oleksandr Zinchenko weighted through ball, but the Brazilian international was denied by Adán’s fingertips after Martinelli attempted a close-range dink over the keeper.

Paulinho should have bagged a brace just minutes later when he was through on goal behind Arsenal’s last line of defense but could only shockingly bend his effort over the bar. And that would come back to bite Sporting seconds later through a fluke deflection off Japanese international Hidemasa Morita after Granit Xhaka’s through ball hit the midfielder before bouncing past an already committed Adán.

Both sides exchanged half-chances for the remainder of proceedings at Estádio José Alvalade, but perhaps Amorim will feel hard done after what was a very credible performance from the home side while Arsenal will still fancy their chances of progression with the second leg at the Emirates still to come.

Arsenal Player Ratings

  • GK: Matt Turner – 7
  • RB: Ben White – 6
  • CB: William Saliba – 7.5
  • CB: Jakub Kiwior – 6
  • LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko – 6.5
  • CM: Jorginho – 6.5
  • CM: Granit Xhaka – 7
  • CAM: Fábio Vieira – 6.5
  • RW: Bukayo Saka – 7.5
  • LW: Reiss Nelson – 6
  • CF: Gabriel Martinelli – 7.5
  • Sub: Takehiro Tomiyasu – 6.5
  • Sub: Gabriel Magalhães – 6
  • Sub: Thomas Partey – 6.5
  • Sub: Emile Smith Rowe – 6

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Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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