Granit Xhaka calls out Arsenal’s defending after draw with Sporting Lisbon – ‘That cannot happen’

A disappointed Granit Xhaka slammed Arsenal’s defense in their 2-2 draw at Sporting Lisbon in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 first leg, insisting “it can’t happen”.

A much-changed arsenal took the lead in Portugal through William Saliba but were quickly pushed back when Goncalo Inacio headed home from a corner after a hesitation from goalkeeper Matt Turner.

And the visitors fell behind 10 minutes after the restart with Paulinho’s goal before an own goal from Japanese midfielder Hidemasa Morita ensured Arsenal were held to a draw.

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“We knew before the game it was difficult to play here,” Xhaka told BT Sport. “It’s always difficult to play against a Portuguese team, they are very disciplined, strong and have good technical players, but we have to get 2nd -2 and finish the game in London.

“We started the game well, but the two goals we conceded were too easy at this level, that shouldn’t happen.

“In the second half we had a lot of control, we could have won the game but we could also have lost it, so we take the draw.”

Gunnes boss Mikel Arteta – who made six changes but handed starts to Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli – insists he will draw “some positive results” from the performance, although he also questioned the defence.

“When you think you can concede two goals away from home and still come away with a draw, you have to take something positive with you,” he said.

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“We were in control for a long time but we lacked the finishing touches a bit but we’re missing four key attackers so we’ll make the tie.

“At 2-1 we lose the chaser and they had a chance to make it 3-1, there are many things to improve but we showed a lot of resilience and we’re still in the draw.

“With six changes you lose a bit of cohesion but we had to make the changes because some are unavailable and others had to play out of position but they did well.”

The result leaves the second leg, to be played at The Emirates on 16 March, well balanced.

Arteta concluded: “It’s still up for grabs and we’re allowed to play at home and now we have to show that we’re the better team.”

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