Mikel Arteta rues ‘poor’ goals as Arsenal are held by Sporting Lisbon

The Gunners came from behind in a 2-2 draw after Mikel Arteta made six changes to the side who clinched a last-minute win over Bournemouth on Saturday to stay five points clear at the top of the Premier League.

A header from William Saliba had given Arsenal the lead but goals either side of half-time from Goncalo Inacio and Paulinho put Sporting in the driver’s seat.

Hidemasa Morita’s own goal secured the visitors a tie they could bring back for next week’s second leg at the Emirates Stadium, where they hope to reach the quarter-finals.

Inacio’s equalizer was Arsenal’s fourth goal from a corner since the World Cup and they have now scored five set-pieces in ten games and are nine seconds from kick-off against the Cherries.

“When you concede two weak goals, like we did away in Europe, it’s very difficult to get a positive result,” said Arteta.

“The game had different phases because we gave away too many easy balls in our own half and gave them the ability to (exploit) transitional moments where they are good.

“At other moments we had total control of the game and we lost a bit of threat today, especially with the four players we’re missing in our front.

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“Some positives because we showed a lot of resilience to get back into the game but we need to defend our box a lot better and be better on Sunday.”

Arteta revealed how Arsenal conceded, particularly en route to a KO draw.

“We talked about the importance of boxing, especially in an indoor or outdoor competition,” he added.

“Today we didn’t defend that well enough and we also have to be better at threatening the opponent. But of course you have an opponent.

“We’ve been playing some really emotional games lately. We made many changes today and sometimes it takes time to achieve that cohesion. You could feel in the first 15 minutes that it took some time to adjust and click. However, if we don’t expose them, that will never happen.”

Sporting director Ruben Amorim spoke on Arsenal’s quality on the eve of the competition but felt his side could have put themselves in a better position to reach the quarter-finals after a strong performance.

“If you asked a Sporting fan before the game if a draw would be a good result, they would say yes,” he said.

“Now if you factor in the 90 minutes, some of them will be disappointed. Our players were very smart, we had quality possession and created chances when winning the ball.

“I would say we could have won the game today. We could have made it 3-1 and conceded a second goal immediately afterwards.”

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