William Saliba, Morita own goal hand Arsenal draw in Europa League vs Sporting

March 10th, 2023 by Olasunkanmi Ibikunle

Arsenal and Sporting played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 tie on Thursday night in Portugal, setting up the second clash in north London nicely.

Mikel Arteta made a string of changes to his starting XI, bringing in the likes of Matt Turner in goal and handing Jakub Kiwior a debut in defence.

Things seemed to be going to plan for the Premier League leaders when William Saliba headed in the opener early on, but a similar header from a corner saw the home side level up through Goncalo Inacio just after the half-hour mark.

The second half was excellent, with both teams really going for it and the match not feeling like the first leg of a tie as the action went end-to-end.

Sporting got their noses in front as Paulinho pounced on a rebound from a Turner save to delight the home fans, but Arsenal levelled again just past the hour, with Hidemasa Morita very unlucky to turn a Granit Xhaka pass into his own goal.

Arsenal will clearly be favourites to progress with the scores level as they prepare for their home leg, but Sporting proved how dangerous they can be and will be a threat again at the Emirates.

It was a low-key start to the game, with Arsenal not at their fluent best due to a number of fringe players coming into the starting XI.

However, they didn’t need a well-worked move or piece of brilliance to open the scoring on 22 minutes, just a well delivered cross and a nicely-timed header.

Fabio Vieira sent an in-swinging corner to the edge of the six-yard box, where William Saliba easily rose above his marker to nod home and put the visitors ahead.

That goal looked all too simple for the Gunners, but Sporting did the same to them 12 minutes later when Goncalo Inacio headed in a Marcus Edwards corner.

It was poor from goalkeeper Matt Turner, on a rare start for the American as he failed to come for the cross, while debutant Jakub Kiwior did not exactly cover himself in glory as he ducked away from the cross.

The pre-season friendly vibe of the start of the game had disappeared and it was becoming a spicy affair, with clashes around the field and three players going in the referee’s book by half-time.

The second half started brightly, with Turner forced into an early stage, but Arsenal also had chances to retake the lead through Gabriel Martinelli and Vieira, the first well saved and the second flashing wide.

Arsenal were starting to dominate but it was Sporting who found themselves in front just 10 minutes into the second half through Paulinho.

Smart work from Edwards played in Pedro Goncalves, who forced a smart save from Turner but Paulinho was quickest to react and poke home.

It was end-to-end stuff despite there being so long left in the tie, with Martinelli bursting through, rounding the goalkeeper but then losing the ball to the speedy Jeremiah St. Juste, while Paulinho had another chance but fired high and wide.

Just after the hour mark Arsenal were level and it was through a huge slice of fortune as Granit Xhaka tried to play in Martinelli and saw his pass cannon off Hidemasa Morita and agonisingly find the corner of the Japanese defender’s own goal.

After the high energy start to the second half, things cooled down somewhat towards the end of the game, with both teams seemingly pretty happy with a draw and substitutions disrupting the flow.

The final whistle came with the scores still at 2-2, with Bukayo Saka forcing a comfortable save late on from Antonio Adan, but few chances coming in the closing stages.

While it is a good result for the Portuguese side, they will have a tough test ahead of them in north London on 16 March, especially as they picked up two suspensions on Thursday night.

Captain Sebastian Coates and the unfortunate scorer of the own goal, Morita, both picked up yellow cards and will miss the trip to England.

Photo Credit: EuropaLeague/Twitter

Tags: , ,
  • Comments Off on William Saliba, Morita own goal hand Arsenal draw in Europa League vs Sporting
  • Posted in Uncategorized

Comments are closed.