Arsenal’s dramatic loss to Sporting comes at a cost with Europa League dream now over
The Gunners also had to pay for it and went all the way to penalties before losing 5-4. Gabriel Martinelli missed his and Sporting slammed all five home.
As in the first leg, the two teams were inseparable and were tied 1-1 at the end of regular time.
Granit Xhaka put his side ahead in the first half with his first goal since October, but Sporting equalized after the break with an impressive Pedro Goncalves strike.
It was two moments of real quality in an otherwise hectic game and Arteta will be disappointed with that performance.
Arsenal are eliminated in the Europa League round of 16 and Arteta will wonder at what cost. His side had to play 120 minutes and recover quickly to host Crystal Palace on Sunday.
To make matters worse, Takehiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba had to be replaced injured in the first 22 minutes. Arteta had spoken ahead of the game about how he now refers to substitutes as “impacters,” but he wouldn’t have wanted to throw Ben White and Rob Holding on it so early.
The potential loss of Saliba will be Arsenal’s biggest concern. They are five points clear at the top of the Premier League and could increase that to eight if they beat Palace on Sunday.
Arteta was adamant that Arsenal wanted to win both the Europa League and the Premier League this season – and his team selection for that second leg underscored that.
Only Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey and White were missing from the ‘first starting XI’ as the home side looked to improve on last week’s performance in Lisbon, which ended 2-2.
That game was chaotic and there were shades of that here too, with Sporting finding joy early on. In fact, they had over 60 percent possession of the ball after 15 minutes.
Arsenal slowly grew into the game, with Gabriel Jesus showing some nice flashes in his first start since November.
The Brazilian, who was out for three months after knee surgery in December, showed clear signs of rust, but also bright sparks.
However, it was another Gabriel who eventually helped Arsenal take the lead. Martinelli was singled out by Jorginho’s pinpoint through ball and when his shot was blocked Xhaka was there to put the ball in the goal.
The goal was the Swiss’ first since October and it was a timely goal as it gave Arsenal a 3-2 lead in the tie.
They suspected Arsenal would continue from there but it was Sporting who fought their way back into the game. Especially in the second half, Ruben Amorim’s team disrupted the rhythm of the game and unsettled Arsenal.
They too got the equalizer they deserved, and in a bizarre way. Jorginho played Xhaka into trouble on the halfway line and the ball broke to Goncalves.
The midfielder looked up to see Aaron Ramsdale off his line, who punched him straight from the Arsenal half.
That goal made you feel like maybe it’s not Arsenal’s night and extra time only underscored that feeling.
Leandro Trossard hit the post. Gabriel made a stunning save for Adan and then cleared another header off the line.
Sporting then shot clean on penalties, while Ramsdale twice missed good save chances.
He and Arsenal were penalized when Martinelli failed to send Sporting through. Joy for Lisbon, but despair for London.