Result: Sporting 0-1 Arsenal
Competition: Europa League
Date: 25th October 2018
Venue: Estádio José Alvalade
Arsenal: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Holding, Sokratis, Xhaka, Elneny, Guendouzi, Ramsey, Welbeck, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang
Subs: Martinez, Mustafi, Jenkinson, Torreira, Iwobi, Ozil, Lacazette
Arsenal achieved their 11th successive win, and their first ever on Portuguese soil, with a 1-0 victory over Sporting this evening.
Unai Emery rotated his side, recalling Sokratis after injury, bringing in Aaron Ramsey to captain the side with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front, and Granit Xhaka deployed as a makeshift left-back.
The game began in somewhat scrappy fashion with the two sides feeling each other out a bit, and it was the 16th minute before we had the first shot, Fernandes firing over from distance.
Arsenal’s right hand side, with Lichtsteiner and Mkhitaryanm, struggled defensively, making basic mistakes which could have been more severely punished, but the Armenian had the Gunners first effort from a free kick which the keeper saved easily enough.
Gudel and Fernandes fired shots over, Nani curled an effort just over the bar after a mistake, and Sokratis got lucky when he misjudged the flight of the ball and clearly pulled the shirt of Montero as he headed towards goal but the referee waved play on and the Greek defender’s blushes were spared – along with a potential red card.
Aubameyang had a wildly optimistic attempt from a free kick over 40 yards out which not unexpectedly didn’t trouble the keeper, Acuna picked up the game’s first yellow card for a foul on Lichtsteiner, and a fairly dull first period concluded with a tame effort from the Gabon striker.
The second period began with an early booking for Rob Holding and a header from Montero which went well wide, then Mkhitaryan fed Aubameyang whose shot was saved by the keeper for a corner which we wasted through a badly executed short routine. The Arsenal striker had another sight of goal after a pass from Ramsey, going through with just the keeper to beat but he found Ribeiro equal to the task.
Lucas Torreira replaced Elneny in the 58th minute, Guendouzi had a shot which trickled through to the keeper, and Danny Welbeck had the ball in the back of the net with a good header but the referee disallowed the goal for a push when it looked more as if the defender slipped.
Torreira forced the keeper into a save from a free kick from just outside the D, and in the 77th minute Emery’s side went ahead. Torreira fed Aubameyang with a pacy pass, he flicked it on, Coates ought to have done better and saw the ball roll behind him into the path of Welbeck who took a touch and rifled the ball between the keeper’s legs from inside the box. 0-1.
It was essentially the England man’s last involvement as he was replaced two minutes later by Alexandre Lacazette, before Iwobi replaced Aubameyang. The Gunners were content to see the game out as we headed into five minutes of injury time but Holding had to be alert to head away a dangerous free kick from a corner.
A flurry of yellow cards for the home side showed their frustration as they headed for their first defeat at home since last year, and the Gunners now top the group with 9 points.
Next up Crystal Palace.