Gonçalves’ sensational strike inspires Sporting comeback

Having played out a 2-2 draw at the José Alvalade last week, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal welcomed Sporting CP to the Emirates, for what promised to be a feisty second leg. With the away goals rule scrapped this season, a draw wouldn’t be good enough for either side – so it really was all to play for.

ARS: Ramsdale; Zinchenko, Gabriel, Saliba, Tomiyasu; Vieira, Jorginho, Xhaka; Nelson, Jesus, Martinelli

SPO: Adan; Inacio, Diomande, St. Juste; Reis, Ugarte, Gonçalves, Esgaio; Trinçao, Paulinho, Edwards

Sporting applied the pressure early on, and could have taken the lead from a free-kick – but Marcus Edwards’ touch was less than optimal and the chance was wasted for os Leões. Mikel Arteta’s side were dealt an early blow as Takehiro Tomiyasu was forced off through injury after just nine minutes, and was replaced by Ben White – who narrowly missed out on Gareth Southgate’s England squad.

A beautifully timed through ball from Jorginho almost found Gabriel Jesus, but Adan was able to dash out and claim the ball to deny the Gunners the opener within fifteen minutes. Reiss Nelson attempted to set up the Brazilian striker soon after, firing in a pinpoint cross from the right flank towards the back post – but once again, Adan was able to make the save.

The Gunners were denied a penalty after a free-kick eventually found its way out to Fabio Vieira, though the midfielder was hauled to the ground by Pedro Gonçalves as he worked his way into the box. The decision wouldn’t matter all too much though, as Arsenal soon broke forwards again – and this time, they found the back of the net.

A blazing run from Gabriel Martinelli saw the Brazilian cut inside from the left flank, unleashing a strike across the face of goal that was saved well by Adan – though he could only clear it as far as Granit Xhaka, who fired home from a few yards out to give Arsenal the lead in this tie.

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Marcus Edwards was denied an equaliser after he broke free on the right flank for Sporting, but a good block from Oleksandr Zinchenko denied the Englishman a vital goal at the Emirates – shortly before Arsenal sought to bag their second at the other end, but Gabriel Jesus’ mazy run came to nothing as Adan produced a fine save.

A lack of clear-cut chances before the break saw Arsenal take their lead into the break, despite a late strike by Esgaio that whistled just wide of the post. Arteta’s side simply had to do more of the same in the second half – if they were to progress to the quarterfinals.

The Gunners struggled to maintain possession in the second half, allowing their Portuguese opposition chance to pounce – Marcus Edwards attempted to find Esgaio on the right, but a block from Gabriel Martinelli brought that chance to an end.

Sporting found an equaliser in sensational style with an hour played, as Pedro Gonçalves picked up the ball on the half-way line, and unleashed a phenomenal speculative lobbed ball towards goal – sailing over Aaron Ramsdale before dipping just enough to find the back netting to bring os Leões level. An absolutely immense goal from 46 yards out, and now it was Arsenal with work to do.

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Paulinho could have sent them ahead almost immediately after rising highest from a corner, but the striker’s header was just over the bar and settled on the roof of the net. Sporting were enjoying the momentum, and Marcus Edwards had chance to put the Portuguese side into the lead after receiving the ball from Ricardo Esgaio – but a phenomenal block from Aaron Ramsdale kept the Gunners level for the time being.

Arsenal won a free-kick in a dangerous area, and Fabio Vieira struck the ball hard into the bottom-left corner, though Adan was able to get low and parry it away to avert the danger – as things stood, the game would go to half-time.

The Gunners thought they’d won a crucial penalty in the last ten minutes, as a Sporting player appeared to have handballed the ball inside the area – but Bukayo Saka was offside as he whipped his cross into the box, so those appeals were dismissed quickly by the referee.

Extra time ensued – and Trossard should have given the Gunners the lead after seven minutes, as he broke through the Sporting defence, but Adan’s hand ensured the Belgian’s shot ricocheted off the post!

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Francisco Trinçao was sent through on goal shortly before the break, but a poor first touch let Arsenal regain possession and begin to build out from the back once again. Mikel Arteta’s side could have reclaimed the lead before the interval after Rob Holding got on the end of Bukayo Saka’s corner – but the defender’s header was hit well over the bar.

Thomas Partey could have kicked off the second half of extra time with a bang, picking up the ball on the edge of the box from Bukayo Saka’s cut-back, before firing a powerful strike across goal – but it sailed out at the far post rather than settling in the bottom corner.

Trossard was played through on goal by Odegaard with ten minutes left to play, but the Belgian was beaten to the ball by Adan – who had been nothing short of sensational between the Sporting sticks. A flurry of chances for Arsenal came to nothing, and while they perhaps should have taken the lead on numerous occasions, it looked like Arteta’s men were headed for penalties.

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With three minutes left to play, Martin Odegaard swung a free-kick into the box – finding Gabriel at the far post – and while the centre-back’s header was on target, Adan produced an acrobatic save to keep his effort out, launching a Sporting counter in the process.

Sporting’s counterattack was brought to an abrupt end when Arsenal won possession back, and as Bukayo Saka surged forwards, he was hauled to the ground by Manuel Ugarte – who was shown a second yellow card and dismissed for the poorly timed challenge.

Penalties. Could Adan carry his excellent performance so far across to the shootout, or would his Sporting side stutter at the final hurdle? Five chances from six yards, in front of the 3000 travelling Portuguese fans – who would emerge victorious?

Jeremiah St. Juste stepped up first, blasting his shot into the top-left corner, leaving Aaron Ramsdale with no chance despite diving the right way. Martin Odegaard’s calm and composed effort also went left, though much lower – and the Arsenal captain sent Adan the wrong way.

Ricardo Esgaio’s strike was thumped right, and while Ramsdale dived the right way, he had no chance of stopping such a thunderous strike. Bukayo Saka was up next – and the young Englishman placed his penalty low with power and precision to keep Arsenal level. 2-2.

Inacio was up next – and while Ramsdale got a good hand to the strike, the ‘keeper couldn’t keep the defender’s effort out. Trossard stepped up next, rolling the ball under the outstretched arms of Adan to make it 3-3 from the spot.

Ramsdale dived the right way, but was unable to deny Arthur Gomes’ strike from six yards. Gabriel Martinelli was up next for the Gunners – but his penalty was saved rather comfortably by Adan. Advantage Sporting.

Nuno Santos won it for the Portuguese side, sending Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal crashing out after such an exciting two-legged tie. Despite the initial upset of this Europa League elimination, they can find positives – it allows them to focus solely on beating Manchester City to the Premier League trophy.

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