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Arsenal are out of this season’s Europa League after losing in a penalty shootout to Sporting Lisbon at the Emirates Stadium. The two sides couldn’t be separated over two legs with both legs ending in draws meaning that the tie was decided by one missed spot kick by Gabriel Martinelli late on Thursday night.
After drawing the first leg 2-2, Arsenal went into the return fixture in North London confident that they would get the job done. They have been in phenomenal form all season, particularly at home, so this confidence was more than warranted.
And they took the lead on the night inside the opening 20 minutes thanks to a goal from Granit Xhaka. The Swiss midfielder picked up the rebound after Gabriel Martinelli’s shot was saved by Sporting goalkeeper, Antonio Adan, and fired the ball into the empty net.
Arsenal threatened to double their lead on a number of occasions through the returning Gabriel Jesus while the visitors also had decent chances of their own in the first half. However, the Gunners went in at halftime with a one-goal advantage and many expected them to see the game through.
A goal of the season contender
The second half started quite tentatively but the game exploded to life on the hour mark when Pedro Goncalves scored from just inside the Arsenal half. Picking the ball up in midfield, the 24-year-old noticed Aaron Ramsdale off his line and sent a speculative effort rifling towards the Arsenal goal.
It looked good as soon as it left his boot and Ramsdale could do nothing to stop the ball from floating over his head and into the back of the net. The Sporting supporters, who were situated just to the right of Ramsdale’s goal went ballistic and the prospect of the home side getting knocked out of Europe all of a sudden loomed large.
🤩 WHAT A GOAL 🤩
Pedro Goncalves with a goal of the season contender for Sporting Lisbon against Arsenal 🤯
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) March 16, 2023
Arsenal created the most clear-cut openings with the scoreline level, both in normal time and extra time, however, they couldn’t get passed Adan who was in inspired form.
The game inevitably went to penalties and have eight perfect spot kicks from both sides, Gabriel Martinelli stepped up to give Arsenal a crucial 5-4 advantage in the shootout. However, the Brazilian sent a weak effort straight into Adan’s path who comfortably parried the ball away.
This meant that Nuno Santos had the opportunity to send Sporting through to the Europa League quarter-finals and he duly delivered with a beautifully struck penalty that left Ramsdale with no chance.
A chance to focus on the Premier League?
After the match, Arsenal legend Martin Keown suggested that Mikel Arteta wouldn’t be too upset with being knocked out of the competition as it will allow them to concentrate solely on the Premier League title race. It’s a point that is difficult to argue with – Arsenal will now play just one game a week for the rest of the season while Manchester City will have to juggle Premier League fixtures with the FA Cup and Champions League.
However, on the flip side, momentum is a wonderful thing to have in football and this result could knock the stuffing and belief out of Arsenal. Being knocked out of the Europa League also puts more pressure on their shoulders as it means the Premier League is their only remaining hope of silverware this season.
Next up for the Gunners is a game against Crystal Palace on Sunday. A bounce-back win feels paramount after the disappointment of Thursday night.