Sporting 2-2 Arsenal: 5 Talking Points as the teams play out an entertaining draw under the lights in Lisbon

Arsenal and Sporting Club de Portugal (Sporting) drew 2-2 in the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 on Thursday 9 March.

Sporting were eliminated from the Champions League as third in the group and had to move into the play-off round of the Europa League. They beat FC Midtjylland 5-1 on aggregate and went on. However, Ruben Amorim’s side have been struggling in the Primeira Liga lately.

Having won the competition two seasons ago, Sporting are currently fourth, 15 points behind leaders SL Benfica. With little hope of catching The Eagles, they wanted to do well in Europe.

Arsenal, on the other hand, appear to be strong contenders for their first Premier League title since The Invincibles in 2003/04. Given their league placement, they could also return to the Champions League next season.

The Gunners have never won a European trophy, however, and were keen to get their hands on silverware as Mikel Arteta fielded a strong line-up.

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🧀Turner between the sticks
Kiwior makes his debut
πŸ–ŠοΈ Martinelli in attack

Let’s do it – together!

Both Sporting and Arsenal started well, playing a style of fast and consistent football. The Gunners dominated possession in the first half as they played most of their game on the hosts’ territory. Despite their quick passing movements, the visitors couldn’t carve out openings to put Antonio Adan between the sticks.

However, Arsenal were lucky from a set piece and took the lead in the 22nd minute when a corner from Fabio Vieira found William Saliba, who headed in superbly. The hosts seemed determined, kept pushing forward and created chances. Sporting equalized thanks to Goncalo Inacio’s header from a Marcus Edwards corner in the 34th minute.

The hosts had a great chance to take the lead just before the break when Jakub Kiwior’s false back pass fell into a green and white shirt. However, Matt Turner rushed to collect the ball to save Arsenal’s blush as the teams tied 1-1 at the break.

Sporting got off to a great start to the second half as Paulinho found space in the Gunners’ 18-yard box and scored from close range to make it 2-1 after 55 minutes. The visitors were no slouches, however, as they put their hearts and souls forward in search of balance. It wasn’t long before a deflected cross from Granit Xhaka made it 2-2 in the 62nd minute.

Arsenal kept the ball for 64% of the second half, with most of their dominance coming late in the second half after the equaliser. They attempted eight shots, four of them on target, but couldn’t find a way past Adan. Despite several changes from both managers, neither team could determine a winner as the game ended 2-2.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five talking points from the game.

#5. Sports captain Sebastian Coates will miss the second leg

The Gunners took the lead in the 22nd minute through a Saliba header. However, an uproar broke out there immediately after the goal as the referee acted as a peacemaker between the two groups of players. Oleksandr Zinchenko and Sporting captain Sebastian Coates received yellow cards as a result.

Coates will now miss the second leg due to an accumulation of too many yellow cards in the Europa League. Midfielder Morita will also be suspended for this game after being cautioned.

#4. Both teams scored identical goals in the first half

Both Arsenal and Sporting scored header goals from corners in the first half and the two goals were almost identical.

William Saliba rose highest to put the visitors ahead when Fabio Vieira provided an assist from a corner. The French defender deflected his header deep into the far corner, giving keeper Adan little chance to save.

Goncalo Inacio then leveled the game 12 minutes later from a Marcus Edwards corner. He jumped the highest and channeled his effort into the far corner, beating caretaker Matt Turner on pace.

#3. Arsenal were at times carefree in possession

Jakub Kiwior made a memorable debut as he put on a nervous performance that sent the Gunners behind on several occasions. He lost several tackles and missed his marks in key situations.

Arsenal were also ineffective up front as Martinelli rounded the goalkeeper well but failed to fire in time, allowing Jeremiah St Juste to pull off a wonderful tackle. The Brazilian also struggled to find the target of air balls when he was boxed out by Sporting’s defenders.

However, that all changed in the second half after Arteta made a substitution and added fresh legs in midfield and defence.

#2. Antonio Adan made some crucial saves for Sporting

Goalkeeper Antonio Adan made some nice saves for the hosts to keep them in the game at crucial moments. He made three saves in the first half and three more in the second half as Sporting ended in a 2-2 draw.

Adan also played nine accurate long balls and made two clearances and one interception.

#1. Arsenal will be the luckier of the two teams

Despite taking the lead in the 22nd minute, the Gunners looked vulnerable at the back and looked like they might concede, which they did. Sporting scored a similar goal to Saliba when Inacio headed in from an Edwards corner. The hosts then took the lead early in the second half when Paulinho ghosted into the box to score.

Sporting attempted 10 shots throughout the game and hit the target six times. They were backed by Arsenal, who gave away the ball cheaply on several occasions but didn’t take their chances. Amorim’s side will be disappointed with a draw at home but will be happy that they still have a good chance of progressing.

Arsenal, on the other hand, will be content with a draw away if key players are rested or ruled out.

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