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Arsenal 1-1 Sporting CP: Gunners Penalized on Penalties

Arsenal 1-1 Sporting CP (3-3 agg, 3-5 pens): Martinelli penalty heartache  ends Gunners' Europa League hopes

Antonio Adan was the hero of the night for Sporting CP

Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Arsenal 1-1 Sporting CP  (Xhaka 19′ | Goncalves 62′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu (White 9′), Saliba (Holding 21′), Gabriel, Zinchenko; Jorginho (Partey 65′), Xhaka; Nelson (Saka 66′), F. Vieira (Odegaard 100′), Martinelli; G. Jesus (Trossard 46′)

Following the pulsating 2-2 draw at Lisbon, the stage was set for what was going to be a thriller, and Arsenal gaffer, Mikel Arteta, made some changes to the squad that ran riot against Fulham over the weekend. Takehiro Tomiyasu came in for Ben White in right back, Jorginho returned to the fray with Thomas Partey rested. In midfield, Fabio Vieira and Reiss Nelson got the nod ahead of Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka, while Gabriel Jesus made his first start in four months ahead of the hattrick of assists hero, Leandro Trossard.

The first notable highlight of the game was Tomiyasu leaving the pitch due to injury after he hyper-extended his knee in an attempted tackle on Francisco Trincao. It looked innocuous at the onset but after spending time with the physios, it was evident that his night was over. Sporting CP drew first blood when Trincao waltzed his way from the right and fashioned a chance for himself, curling a good effort that missed by a lick of paint. However, Arsenal scored the all-important match opener when Jorginho located Gabriel Martinelli with a peach of a pass. The Brazilian bore down on goal from the left like he did against Leicester, but his shot was parried by Antonio Adan in the Sporting CP goal. Captain of the night, Granit Xhaka, latched on the parried effort and smashed in a rebound that went past the goalie to the Sporting CP net. 

Arsenal’s joy from the goal was somewhat short-lived, as William Saliba had to be subbed for Rob Holding due to injury. Saliba has been immense all season long, so losing him now will be a very bitter pill to swallow. We hope it was precautionary as the defender was clearly in some discomfort and signaled to be substituted.

Arsenal had a chance to go two goals up when Gabriel Jesus showed great movement to evade his markers and fire a goal-bound shot, but Adan made a superb save on his near post. Late on, Sporting CP almost leveled the tie when Manuel Ugarte saw Aaron Ramsdale off his line, but his drilled effort ricocheted off a player to go wide. Based on recommendations from the medical team, or just a tactical switch, Arteta felt that Gabriel Jesus had run his race for the night and brought on Trossard as a half time sub.

Early in the second half, Sporting CP got the equalizer from one of the most audacious goals you’d ever see. Jorginho and Xhaka attempted a one-two in the center circle with Jorginho failing to connect with the loose ball from Xhaka. Paulinho, who wasn’t having any joy in Arsenal’s box, won the ball from Jorginho in the Arsenal half and passed it to Pedro Goncalves. The young Portuguese has already scored 16 goals this season and is full of confidence, but it still takes some stuffing to attempt what he did. See Ramsdale way off his line, Goncalves launched a fantastic lofted surface-to-goal piledriver that floated in the air before dipping under the cross bar to hit the back of the net.


It’s the kind of goal that gets nominated for a Puskas Award, and sadly, Arsenal were on the receiving end of it.

The home side’s confidence was rattled by conceding such a goal, Sporting CP had the wind in their sails, with Paulinho guiding his header from a corner kick over the cross bar. With Sporting CP clearly on the ascendancy, Arteta looked to gain a stronghold of the game and brought on the duo of Saka and Partey. As expected, Partey brought stability to the middle of the park while Saka became a thorn in the flesh of the Sporting CP defenders. 

With Arsenal pushing to get the match winner, there was some vulnerabilities at the back and a through ball to Marcus Edwards with Holding no where in sight saw the young North London lad go one on one with Ramsdale, but his shot smashed Ramsdale on the face for a corner kick. 90 minutes wasn’t enough to settle the contest and extra time beckoned. 

Arsenal had a big chance to settle the contest when a terrible past for Youssef Chermiti put Trossard through, but he fired his shot on an onrushing Adan, who tipped the ball to the woodwork, before a Sporting CP defender cleared the ball. Odegaard came on for the ineffectual Vieira to add some impetus to the Arsenal attack, and the home side went for the jugular but didn’t draw blood. Three set pieces in quick succession ensued, with Holding nodding Saka’s corner over the bar, and Gabriel attacking the ball twice with goal-bound headers but Adan was on hand to make more important saves.

With both teams failing to settle the contest in 120 minutes, we had to go to the lottery of the penalty shootout, and all honesty, I wasn’t too confident, bearing in mind that Adan had a stromer, and the nerves could get the better of the youngins in the club. The fact that Sporting CP started the kicks and played them close to their own fans didn’t help as well.

Jeremiah St. Juste blasted the opener past Ramsdale, before Odegaard side-footed his own spot kick to the far corner, sending the goalie the wrong way. Ricardo Esgaio had too much power in his penalty which was to hot for Ramsdale, before the starboy, Saka, came on and confidently dispatched his past Adan. Both takers for the third spot kick had nervy moments, with Ramsdale getting a hand, albeit a weak one, to Goncalo Inacio’s penalty, and Trossard’s own kick just crept beyond Adan.

Then came the fourth spot kicks. Artur Gomes’ penalty was quite poor, but it somehow found its way under Ramsdale to make it 4-3. Martinelli stepped up, bounced the ball for God knows how long, dropped it on the spot and side-footed a poor ball that was parried by Adan.

This meant that Nuno Santos, scorer of that amazing rabona goal against Boavista over the weekend, had a chance to put his name in the tabloids as a hero in Lisbon. The Baldie dropped the ball on the spot and absolutely smashed it past Ramsdale to make it 5-3. This is the second competition that this Arsenal side is crashing out on home turf, with Brighton defeating the Gunners before the World Cup at the Carabao Cup’s first hurdle.

The manager spoke about the rued misses in the game in his post-match presser, and stated that Martinelli will bounce back from his penalty losing anguish, like Saka did in the European Championships finals last summer. He also touched on the injuries suffered in the contest, and while Tomiyasu’s own would probably be long term, Saliba might be available for selection against Crystal Palace.

As Odegaard clearly stated, we have 11 finals to play in the Premier League, starting with Crystal Palace at home this weekend. In as much as I’d have loved to go all the way in the Europa League, losing out now, brings clarity to the season, as stated by the gaffer, Arteta.

“It’s a huge blow, but it brings clarity to the season. It’s 11 games to play for, 11 Premier League games, and a big final against Crystal Palace. The focus has to be there, the energy has to be there and learn from tonight.”


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Sporting CP 2-2 Arsenal: Spoils Shared at the Iberian Battle

Sporting CP 2 - 2 Arsenal - Match Report |

Match Report – Match Highlights  Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Sporting CP 2-2 Arsenal (Inacio 34′, Paulinho 55′ | Saliba 22′, Morita OG 62′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Turner; White, Saliba, Kiwior (Gabriel 71′), Zinchenko (Tomiyasu 63′); Jorginho (Partey 71′), Xhaka; Saka, F. Vieira, Nelson (Smith-Rowe 71′); Martinelli

Prior to kickoff, there was talk of illness swapping through the squad with Kieran Tierney, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Jesus affected, but rotations were still expected, as Arsenal gaffer, Mikel Arteta, made six changes to the side that won right at the death against Bournemouth. Matt Turner stepped in between the sticks for Aaron Ramsdale, Jakub Kiwior made his long awaited debut ahead of Gabriel, who was overdue for a rest, Jorginho got the nod ahead of Partey while the likes of Fabio Vieira and goalscoring hero, Reiss Nelson, got starts.

However, it was Sporting CP that drew first blood when their dangerman, Pedro Goncalves, got behind Jorginho and sent William Saliba to the cleaners before side footing a shot that went wide off the mark. Arsenal had the lion’s share of the possession and it took its toll after some pressure led to a corner kick that was swung in by Vieira and nodded home by Saliba. While his teammates celebrated with the big defender for converting yet another set piece, there was some altercation between Oleksandr Zinchenko and the Sporting CP captain, Sebastien Coates. That earned both players a place in the referee’s book, but there was more damage done to the Sporting CP backline, as Coates, who was walking on a tight rope before the match, earned himself a suspension for the second leg next week.

Zinchenko put that fracas behind him and was close to doubling Arsenal’s lead when he blasted a shot at the edge of the area straight to Antonio Adan in goal after his initial freekick was blocked by the wall. Sporting CP’s center forward, Paulinho, held the ball up against Saliba and fed his left center back, Goncalo Inacio, that had made a rare foray to support the attack. Inacio’s low drive was saved superbly by Turner, but the American goalie, and his Polish colleague, Kiwior, wouldn’t cover themselves in glory for the equalizer conceded by Arsenal. Kiwior failed to jump at the ball and Turner was in sixes and sevens as Inacio leapt to repeat the feat Saliba did at the other end 11 minutes earlier.

Sporting CP pressed the Gunners hard, forcing Arteta’s men to make mistakes at the back, but Turner showed great awareness to make a save from Marcus Edwards shot. Just before the halftime whistle, Granit Xhaka made contact with Nelson’s looping cross, which some of the ball had passed the line, but Adan reacted well to make a great save. There was time for some comedy and confusion when the referee handed a yellow card to Gabriel Martinelli, when it was Xhaka that clearly impeded the goalkeeper. It brought back memories of Kieran Gibbs earning a red card for a handball committed by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Right at the end of the half, Turner made a huge mistake to play the ball out from the back and passed the ball straight to Paulinho. Luckily for Turner and Arsenal, Edwards wasn’t on the same wavelength with his strike partner and that great chance for Sporting CP went begging. 

The start of the second half was pulsating with end to end stuff from both sides, earning the appreciation of both crowds and surely the viewers watching at home. Sporting CP started the attacking bouts with Francisco Trincao wiggling his way into the danger area and blasting a shot that was saved by Turner, but Hidemasa Morita’s rebound was weak, allowing the goalie to recover and make a routine save. Arsenal launched their own flurry of attacks in quick succession, and it commenced when Zinchenko sent Martinelli clean on goal with an intelligent pass, but the Brazilian chose precision over power, allowing Adan to make a good smart save. Vieira had a chance at the edge of the box and fired just wide. Martinelli got on the end of a beautiful Zinchenko cross and failed to hit the target.

You just had a feeling that Arsenal would be made to rue those misses and it came to pass with Goncalves firing a low drive that was parried by Turner, but his effort went straight to the path of Paulinho that was sandwiched between two Arsenal defenders but reacted quicker than them to guide the ball to an unguarded net. Martinelli had a chance to equalize for Arsenal when he made a lung-bursting incredible solo run, a la Chelsea at Stamford Bridge a few seasons ago, but instead of placing the ball past the keeper, he chose to go round him, allowing Justin St. Juste to make a last-ditch challenge to quell the threat. The game was quite open and the Arsenal defense was left exposed when an over the top ball saw Paulinho bear down on goal with only the keeper to beat but his lack of composure got the better of him as he blasted his effort wide.

That critical miss came back to bite Sporting CP as Arsenal clawed themselves back into the game when Xhaka’s attempted pass to Martinelli was intercepted by Morita, but the goalie was left flat-footed, as the interception turned out to be an embarrassing own goal. The night couldn’t get any worse for Morita, whose yellow card a few minutes earlier ruled him out of the second leg. 

Takehiro Tomiyasu came on for Zinchenko and got in on the attacking act when he went to the byline and swung in a cross for Vieira whose header was tipped over the bar by Adan. Loads of substitutions took place afterwards for both sides and the introduction of Thomas Partey, as well as Gabriel, brought some much needed security to the Arsenal backline, and as expected the tempo of the game was slowed down. There was almost time for late drama, and it was served by Bukayo Saka, that managed to evade his markers and blast a shot that was saved by Adan. A few millimeters to the far post, like he did with David de Gea, and Arsenal fans would have gone into delirium.

A draw seemed like a fair result in the grand scale of things, a sentiment shared by captain of the night, Granit Xhaka. Arsenal have it all to do in the second leg, but they will have to return to the Premier League to take on Fulham in their charge to win their first league title in 19 years.

After a quite intense battle in the Iberian peninsula, the spoils were shared, and we have no arguments with that.


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Sporting CP Preview: Rotations Imminent

Hector Bellerin set for Emirates Stadium return as Arsenal face Europa  League Sporting test -

Sporting CP play hosts to Mikel Arteta’s men at the Jose Alvalade Stadium this evening. Arsenal, still basking in the euphoria of their enthralling win over Bournemouth last weekend will need to focus on another elite competition, the Europa League, that offers the Gunners a chance of a trophy this season. With the Premier League being the priority this season, Arteta has stated that he wants to compete on both fronts,

“We have one team, and we have to play all the games with the best possible players to win them. At this moment we have made eight changes [in the competition] so we try to accommodate. 

“We have certain players where we don’t know if they will last 60, 70 or 90 minutes. We have to be really good at maintaining the quality and the balance in the team, as well as the threat to be as competitive as we can for the 95 or 96 minutes the game is going to last.

“As well, players have moments in the season where they are available or not available, and tomorrow it will be the same case, but for sure, we will try to put the most competitive team together to win the game.”

The Europa League game against Sporting CP will give us a chance to offer minutes to a couple of players itching for action to contribute to the cause. Matt Turner has been the Cup keeper for the entirety of the campaign with Aaron Ramsdale filling in when he had some injury troubles. With the American goalie fully fit again, I will expect him to stand between the sticks tonight. His last outing in the FA Cup fourth round was as far back as January, and he performed very well that night. 

The defense is expected to have wholesale changes, with Kieran Tierney odds on to get the nod ahead of Oleksandr Zinchenko tonight. For a first team regular like Tierney, this season must have been really difficult for him, losing his place to the Ukrainian, but Zinchenko offers Arsenal so much more than just featuring as a left back. While Tierney provides the traditional width operating from the byline, Zinchenko drifts into the heart of the midfield and shows his class in building attacks from that location. On the other flank, Takehiro Tomiyasu is another first team player that has lost his place to Ben White, even though both players have shuffled consistently in recent weeks.

In center back, I am hoping to see Jakub Kiwior play for the first time, as he’s due for an appearance in the famous Red and White. Prior to joining Arsenal, he played consistent first team football for Spezia, starting in 17 consecutive matches, till he was benched in January following speculation of a move out of the club, which materialized. Kiwior will probably be partnered by captain of the night, Rob Holding, who in all honesty, endured a torrid time in the FA Cup clash with Manchester City, losing duels after duels to Erling Haaland, before he was booted at half time for William Saliba.

In midfield, Jorginho has fully recovered from his illness, and should get the nod ahead of Thomas Partey that should be wrapped in cotton wool ahead of the trip to Craven Cottage. I’m certain that local lad, Fabio Vieira, would be in for some hostile reception, having left FC Porto to join the Gunners last summer. Injury returnees like Emile Smith-Rowe and Reiss Nelson will be looking for more minutes, and of course, we have the hungry Gabriel Jesus, that wants to return to first team action as quick as possible. With Leandro Trossard suffering a groin injury last weekend, and Eddie Nketiah still struggling with a knock on his ankle, the goalscoring burden would fall on the red-hot Gabriel Martinelli, and young Brazilian says he’s ready for the challenge,

“If I’m the number nine or on the wing, I always try to do my best and help the team by scoring or getting an assist. 

“It’s up to Mikel – wherever he decides to play me, I’ll play. If the team need me I’d play as a goalkeeper! We play for Arsenal and everyone has this responsibility.”

A huge transfer raid this summer saw Sporting CP lose three of their key stars, Nuno Mendes (to PSG) while Joao Palhinha (Fulham) and Matheus Nunes (Wolves) came to the Premier League. The Portuguese outfit was paired in the same Champions League group with Arsenal’s rivals, Tottenham, Europa League defending champions, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Arsenal reject dumping ground, Olympique Marseille. Sporting CP began their Champions League campaign with two victories over Eintracht Frankfurt and Tottenham, but a slump in form saw the Portuguese outfit lose three of their next four games in the competition, crashing down to the Europa League playoffs. 

Veteran defender, Sebastian Coates, scored a very late goal to earn his side a draw at their home ground, Estadio Jose Alvalade, but Sporting Lisbon went to Viking land and destroyed Midtjylland in front of their home fans, with the red hot Pedro Goncalves scoring two goals in the 4-0 victory. Those were his 15th and 16th strikes of the season, with the young Portuguese attacker having the form of his life in this campaign.

Sporting CP is currently fourth in the Portuguese Liga, with former Arsenal defender, Hector Bellerin, scoring his first goal for his new club in the recent league win over Estoril. Sporting CP’s loss to FC Porto in mid-February is the club’s only defeat in their last eight games, so they come into tonight’s game with four wins from their last five. 

Sporting CP vs Arsenal Predicted Lineups

Sporting CP: Adan; Inacio, Coates, St. Juste; Esgaio, Tanlongo, Morita, Reis; Edwards, Paulinho, Goncalves

Arsenal: Turner; Tomiyasu, Holding, Kiwior, Tierney; Jorginho, Xhaka, Vieira; Martinelli, Smith-Rowe, Saka.

Injury / Suspension Updates

Sporting CP: Daniel Braganca (cruciate ligament)

Arsenal: Mohamed Elneny (knee), Gabriel Jesus (lacking match fitness), Eddie Nketiah (ankle), Leandro Trossard (groin)

Form Guide

Sporting CP Form

  • Last Five Games:  D W W W W
  • Last Result: Portimonense 0-1 Sporting CP (Paulinho 71′)
  • Leading Goalscorer: Pedro Goncalves (16)

Arsenal Form

  • Last Five Games: L W W W W
  • Last Result: Arsenal 3-2 Bournemouth (Partey 63′, White 70′, Nelson 96′ | Billing 1′, Senesi 57′)
  • Leading Goalscorer: Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli (11)

Gooner Daily predicts a 1 – 2 victory.

Kick Off – 6.45pm (GMT +1) at Estadio Jose Alvalade.

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