Sporting Lisbon 0-1 Arsenal
Sporting Lisbon 0-1 Arsenal: Danny Welbeck strikes late as Unai Emery’s men make it 11 wins in a row
- Sokratis Papastathopoulos was lucky not to be sent off after bringing down Fredy Montero as he went through
- Danny Welbeck had a headed goal disallowed after he was adjudged to have fouled defender Bruno Gaspar
- Welbeck broke the deadlock in the 77th minute after Sebastian Coates’ mistake allowed him through on goal
- The victory sees Unai Emery’s men move three points clear at the top of their Europa League group
This is almost getting ridiculous. Eleven games, eleven wins for Arsenal.
Did you see that coming? You’d be a liar if you say you did.
But the Unai Emery bandwagon powers on. Actually, no, scratch that.
Sporting Lisbon XI (4-3-3): Ribeiro; Ristovski (Gaspar 45), Pinto, Coates, Acuna; Battaglia, Petrovic, Gudelj (Cabral 71); Nani (Diaby 87), Montero, Fernandes
Subs not used: Mane, Salin, Mathieu, Luis
Booked: Coates, Acuna, Battaglia, Cabral
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Lichtsteiner, Papastathopoulos, Holding, Xhaka; Elneny (Torreira 58), Guendouzi; Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Welbeck (Lacazette 81); Aubameyang (Iwobi 86)
Subs not used: Ozil, Mustafi, Jenkinson, Martinez
Booked: Holding, Mkhitaryan
Goal: Welbeck 77
Referee: Damir Skomina
This is more like a juggernaut, careering into any team that dares oppose them.
Perhaps that’s over egging the pudding slightly. But after years of malaise under Arsene Wenger; Arsenal are back. And they are back with a vengeance.
Their win here in Lisbon wasn’t easy on the eye. The free-flowing football that destroyed Leicester City in the second half on Monday night deserted them.
But this was a gutsy, resilient Arsenal. An Arsenal we haven’t seen since Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams et al ruled the roost in north London.
Ask yourself this? Would Arsenal have won this entirely scrappy affair if Wenger was still in charge?
You may think yes. But under Emery, the Gunners looked far more equipped to slum it and still find a way to emerge victorious.
Against Sporting it was Danny Welbeck who took the acclaim, firing home in the second half to maintain Arsenal’s 100 percent start to their Europa League campaign.
Barring a miraculous collapse in their final three group games, Arsenal are as good as qualified for the knockout stages.
The way Arsenal are responding to Emery’s tutelage suggests such a calamity won’t be forthcoming.
After the highs of Monday night’s rip-roaring display against Leicester, whatever came next would inevitably be somewhat of a come down.
One shot on target in the first half – a routine save from Renan Ribeiro from Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s free kick – was quite the come down.
It wasn’t for the lack of effort, nor quality – both teams fielding relatively strong teams: Aaron Ramsey, Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all starting for the Gunners while former Manchester United star Nani starred for Sporting.
But the opening 45 minute was a world away from that dazzling display against the Foxes.
The Gunners accumulated 65 percent possession in the first half. They could have played a 65 minute first half and still wouldn’t have scored.
Granit Xhaka, who was playing in an unfamiliar left-back role last night, warned us this could happen in the pre-match press conference.
‘We can’t score three goals every game, the Swiss said. Maybe he knew something we didn’t.
In fairness to Arsenal, the trip to Lisbon was, on paper, the hardest game of their Europa League group campaign.
The first half certainly lived up to that billing. Not that Sporting created much either – Nani’s fierce strike over the bar from distance the best they could muster.
On another day, Sporting could have been awarded a penalty – Nani and Fredy Montero both up in arms referee Damir Skomina declined point to the spot.
Deep down the Sporting pair knew they were clutching at straws.
Similarly, clutching at straws in hope of a livelier second period was all anyone had in Jose Alvalade Stadium had after what preceded it.
Thankfully, we got it. Arsenal came flying out of the blocks – Aubameyang denied twice by Ribeiro in quick succession.
Already the second half was more entertaining. Danny Welbeck then saw his effort from point blank range blocked after fluent build-up play that included Ramsey and Matteo Guendouzi was deflected wide by former Liverpool defender Sebastian Coates.
Welbeck and Ramsey then got in each other’s way following Aubameyang’s incisive pass in the 65th minute as Arsenal sensed blood.
By that time Emery had already thrown on dogged midfielder Lucas Torreira in hope of taking a firmer grip on the game.
And the move looked to have paid off in the 68th minute when Welbeck had the ball in the net only for referee Skomina to rule the effort out for a foul on Bruno Gaspar in the build up.
Torreira then forced Ribeiro into another save from a 25 yard free kick before the Gunners made the vital breakthrough.
The way the game was going, a piece of magic or a mistake was always going to be decisive.
In this case, it was the latter. Coates looked for all the world he would cut out Torreira’s pass. He didn’t. Perhaps Aubameyang’s failed attempt to get a flick on his team-mate’s pass put the Uruguayan defender off.
But Welbeck wasn’t in any kind of mood to be sympathetic, cooly firing past Ribeiro to notch the decisive winner.