Sporting CP 2-2 Arsenal: Saliba Header plus Own Goal hands Gunners Respite>>>

Sporting Lisbon put up a spirited effort to hold Arsenal to a 2-2 draw in this UEFA Europa League (UEL) Round of 16 first-leg encounter at the Estádio José Alvalade, with the visitors still unbeaten in five H2Hs against the Portuguese giants, thanks to Hidemasa Morita’s unfortunate own goal in the second half.

Perhaps inspired by their nail-biting stoppage time victory against Bournemouth, Premier League leaders Arsenal exerted early pressure in a bid to extend their four-match win streak. The Lisbon natives carefully assessed the visitors’ moves in the opening minutes, but eventually gave way to the opener midway through the half, after William Saliba out jumped the home defense following a corner in the six-yard box to bury the ball in the left corner.

Mikel Arteta’s side seemed complacent after drawing first blood, as the Leões roared back with successive chances, before thrilling their nervous fans with a carbon copy of Arsenal’s opener. Gonçalo Inácio spotted a pinpoint corner delivery, and he rose high to swiftly guide the ball past a helpless Matt Turner to level terms. The USMNT keeper was then forced into a fantastic save from a long-range effort, but Arsenal finished the first half looking the stronger side.

Having scored nine of their 13 most recent goals in the second half. Arsenal were expected to continue in that same vein, but some intricate Sporting teamplay in the opposition box left Paulinho with an easy tap-in to give his side the lead. Sporting’s Hidemasa Morita was then thrown into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, receiving a caution for a foul that will see him miss the return leg in London next Thursday.

But the Japanese midfielder’s evening was to get even worse just a handful of minutes later, when an unlucky deflection saw him net an own goal. At 2-2, the game was now either side’s to snatch, but neither proved capable of taking the initiative or completing the necessary runs. That said, there were penalty appeals from Arsenal on the cusp of 90 minutes after Fabio Vieira went down inside the box under pressure from a green and white shirt, but Tobias Stieler waved play on.

Being the only English side to have beaten Sporting in Lisbon since 2018, Arsenal will rue not having taken their earlier chances, despite extending their unbeaten record against Portuguese opposition in the UEL to seven games. And having progressed from each of their previous six ties against English sides in the UEFA Cup or UEL knockout stages, Rúben Amorim’s outfit will hope to carry this evening’s momentum into the return leg next week.

🔴 Live Blog:


64′ MIN: Here comes the VAR decision. The goal is given and Arsenal players have a reason to celebrate!

63′ MIN: The Arsenal players halt their celebrations as referee Tobias Stieler makes the VAR signal to review the goal, most likely to ascertain if there was a foul in the build-up play.

62′ MIN: Hidemasa Morita scores an unlucky own goal! He deflects a shot into his own net.

GOOOAAALLL!!! Sporting CP 2-1 Arsenal



34′ MIN: Marcus Edwards takes over corner duties. Goncalo Inacio gets his head on the ball from the corner and puts it into the bottom left corner.

GOOOAAALLL!!! Sporting CP 1-1 Arsenal (G. Inacio)

22′ MIN: William Saliba outjumps the defence inside the six-yard box to meet the corner and scores with a great header into the left side of the goal. The keeper had no chance to react.

GOOOAAALLL!!! Sporting CP 0-1 Arsenal (W. Saliba)


The hosts are in fine form, with their recent 1-0 win at Portimonense stretching their unbeaten competitive run to five matches (W4, D1), though they remain 15 points behind the title pace in Portugal. However, they have already beaten a North London PL side in the shape of Tottenham Hotspurs this season (2-0) on Matchday Two of the UEFA Champions League, and they have only tasted defeat in one of their three home UEL games against English opposition (W2).

Ironically, that sole defeat came against the Gunners back in 2018 (1-0). The Gunners look like a much tougher opponent this time round too, with Sporting manager Rúben Amorim even labelling them “out of this world” in the build-up. He did, however, claim his side still have a chance, but they’ll need to improve on five defeats from their last nine European home games (W3, D1) in order to give themselves the best chance of progression.

As for Arsenal, they left it until stoppage time on Saturday to seal a remarkable comeback from 2-0 down to beat Bournemouth 3-2 to keep their five-point lead at the top of the PL. That victory extended their winning run to four, with nine of their 12 goals during that period coming in the second half. That highlights that the London club have been struggling to get going from the outset in recent matches, something manager Mikel Arteta hinted could be down to physical issues as he revealed he intends to “pick the players (for this game) that are in the best possible condition”.

This fixture will see full-back Héctor Bellerín face his former club. The Spaniard previously made 239 senior appearances for Arsenal and will be looking to help his new team get one over his old employers.


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