Arsenal headed to Lisbon with four wins from their last four games – and they looked to make it five against an in-form Sporting Lisbon side, who have also won their last four competitive fixtures. Mikel Arteta’s side was heavily rotated from their dramatic win against Bournemouth on the weekend, with Jakub Kiwior slotting in at centre-back to make his Arsenal debut.
SPO: Adan; Inacio, Coates, St. Juste; Reis, Gonçalves, Morita, Esgaio; Trinçao, Edwards; Paulinho
ARS: Turner; Zinchenko, Kiwior, Saliba, White; Xhaka, Jorginho, Vieira; Nelson, Martinelli, Saka
Pedro Gonçalves should have given the hosts the lead early on as he surged past Jorginho, cutting inside and unleashing a strike – but the midfielder’s effort didn’t even come close to troubling Matt Turner between the posts.
Arsenal found the opener with 22 minutes played after William Saliba rose highest to head home from Fabio Vieira’s corner, beating his man to send the ball crashing past Adan. The Gunners could have had a second in quick succession as Zinchenko took a free-kick in a dangerous area, but his initial strike hit the wall. The Ukrainian won the rebound and unleashed another shot on goal, forcing a save from Adan.
Gonçalo Inacio netted next to level the scores, in an almost identical fashion to how Arsenal got the first goal. Marcus Edwards’ corner was headed home well by the centre-back, who took advantage of a disjointed Arsenal defence. Matt Turner’s poor positioning and Jakub Kiwior’s reluctance to rise for the header cost the Gunners their lead, and the sides would head into the break even – despite brilliant chances for both sides before the whistle.
Paulinho’s break down the left flank allowed him to cut inside and get a shot off early on in the second half, but Matt Turner was able to match it with a great save – though the ball found Morita, who rifled another shot on goal to threaten the visitors, but that too was well saved by Turner.
A blistering counterattack by Sporting was halted well by Arsenal, though the hosts finally took the lead in the 55th minute through Paulinho. Gonçalves’ shot on goal was parried away by Matt Turner – but straight into the path of Paulinho, who won’t score an easier goal this season.
Gabriel Martinelli broke forwards well and worked his way past Adan, but some great last-ditch defending from Jeremiah St Juste saw the danger averted for Sporting. The resulting corner was captured well by the Spanish keeper, and Sporting were ahead with an hour played. Another chance for the hosts went begging soon after as Paulinho went through on goal, but opted to shoot rather than squaring it across the face of goal for a tap-in by his teammate.
That missed chance would cost Sporting, as Arsenal immediately broke free at the other end – with a speculative strike from Granit Xhaka beating Adan on the bounce before settling in the bottom-left corner. A fairly lengthy VAR check for a foul in the build-up ensued, but the goal stood – much to the disappointment of the thousands of home fans in the Estádio José Alvalade, and that was made worse by the decision that the goal would be recognised as a Morita own goal. The Gunners were even.
Mikel Arteta’s side nearly took the lead once again, as Fabio Vieira rose well to direct a header towards goal, but Adan was primed and ready to tip it over the bar for another Arsenal corner. The danger was cleared, but the Gunners won yet another corner in the process – but Reiss Nelson’s delivery sailed straight out for a goal-kick to ease the pressure on the Sporting backline.
Arteta’s Arsenal were held to a 2-2 draw by the final whistle though – despite a late chance for Bukayo Saka – and they’ll return to the Emirates for the second leg next Thursday. Sporting will be without Hidemasa Morita, who picked up a suspension in this game.