Arsenal: Leno, Bellerin, Mustafi, Luiz, Saka, Xhaka, Ceballos, Ozil, Pepe, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Martinez, Sokratis, Torreira, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Guendouzi, Martinelli
Arsenal crashed out of the Europa League after late heartbreak at both ends saw us lose 2-1 to Olympiacos at the Emirates this evening.
Mikel Arteta picked a strong side, particularly from an attacking point of view, starting Mesut Ozil, Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette together.
The game began slowly enough, but in the 12th minute things began to happen. Bellerin fed Ozil who tried to find Lacazette, before Xhaka and Pepe both had shots blocked.
Then some more nothing happened before Pepe was sent through by Lacazette and fouled on the edge of their box. Ba picked up a booking that could have been more than that, but the record signing could only curl the free kick over the bar.
Another solid spell of nothing much followed with some stuff nearly happening but not quite. Mustafi did block a shot with his Germanic posterior, Camara shot wide after finding space behind, and on the sidelines Mikel Arteta looked less than pleased with what his team was producing.
Arsenal did have the ball in the back of the net, a repeat of the only goal of the first leg when Saka fed Lacazette to finish, but the left-back was offside in the build-up.
The final pass was poor throughout, leading to losses of possession in dangerous areas, and with no real chances to speak of, the teams went in level at the break.
There were no half-time changes from Arteta, and also not much change in the game where all the nothing that happened in the first half happened again. That was until the visitors got a corner, Valbuena whipped it in, and Cisse had a free run to head home from close range. 0-1.
Leno then had to make a great save to prevent Tsimikas scoring the Greeks’ second goal of the game, Camara was booked for a foul on Saka, while Arsenal couldn’t seem to build any attacking momentum.
Arteta made his first change in the 72nd minute, bringing on Lucas Torreira for Dani Ceballos, Pepe did lots of dribbling to win a corner, but nothing came of it. Xhaka then set up the Ivorian for a shot which the keeper did well to save, and when the ball came back in Lacazette stooped to somehow head wide from just a couple of yards out.
Xhaka had a go from distance but put his shot over the bar, Lacazette smashed a shot miles wide from inside the box, before Torreira had a pop from outside the box but the keeper was equal to it.
Joe Willock came on to replace Bellerin in the 84th minute, with Arsenal moving to a back three of Xhaka, Luiz and Mustafi. There were a couple of late Olympiacos corners to test our nerves, but no further goals meant extra-time.
Pepe was denied an obvious free kick on the edge of their box, the refereeing waving play on, and just before the end of the first period Mustafi picked up a hamstring strain and was replaced by Sokratis. Ther ewas still time for Gaspar to fire over from a very promising position.
We reached half-time, and new rules meant an extra sub at our disposal. Gabriel Martinelli came on for Lacazette to play the final 15 minutes of extra-time. Olympiacos were sitting very deep, making it tough for us to find space and looking to counter-attack.
Masouras almost won it for the visitors, curling a shot beyond Leno but thankfully off the top of the bar. Saka put in a couple of low crosses, and in the 113th minute the goal we needed finally came. Ozil put in a cross from the left, Martinelli challenged the defender which saw the ball pop up, and Aubameyang watched it all the way before hooking it acrobatically into the back of the net. 1-1.
It should have been the winner, but there was a twist to the game. Leno was careless to concede a corner. Corner came in, got cleared, we didn’t get it fully clear through, ball crossed in, Luiz caught again, bloke scored from close range. 1-2. Disaster.
And yet, there was a chance right at the death – the ball broke for Aubameyang just yards out, and having scored a chance of high difficulty, the leading scorer put it wide to the disbelief of everyone, not least himself.
Arsenal were beaten, away goals counted for the Greeks, and our European campaign is over for this season.