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Europa League: Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid

Arsenal miss golden opportunity to defeat Atletico in the first leg semifinal

A late equalizer from Atletico Madrid’s French striker Antoine Griezmann gave the 10-man side a crucial away-goal advantage over Premier League giant club Arsenal after the first leg of their Europa League semi-final at the Emirates with a 1-1 end result on Thursday.Griezmann has been directly involved in 9 goals in European competition this season to date with 6 goals and 3 assists; his most ever in a single European campaign. Arsenal have it all to do in the upcoming second leg away in Madrid after a frustrating draw in the Europa League semi-final with Atletico Madrid. Alex Lacazette opened the scoring to give the Gunners the lead in a match that they dominated against a 10-man La Liga side. There was a one-two in the build-up to Lacazette’s goal. It plays Wilshere into space on the left of the area but forces him wide. Wilshire plays a lovely cross to the back post and Lacazette heads down and in! The crucial match was exciting and dramatic from the start in a fast-paced, furious and frenetic first half. At two minutes, Atletico right-back Sime Vrsaljko was booked and not sent off soon after for a late challenge on Lacazette. The Arsenal striker had volleyed one shot narrowly wide and seen a close-range header clawed away by Atletico’s superstar goalkeeper Jan Oblak. Atletico's manager, Diego Simeone remonstrated loudly towards the referee as he called for Jack Wilshere to be booked.

Wilshere sent a header straight at the Atletico keeper, before Danny Welbeck was denied by the Slovenia international moments later. Laurent Koscielny sliced one wide. Antoine Griezmann’s powerful shot was beaten away by Arsenal goalie David Ospina. Arsenal continued to dominate in the second half, and were rewarded for their efforts just past the hour mark when Wilshere played a neat one-two on the edge of the area and sent a deep cross to the back post. Lacazette muscled his way into position and sent his header into the corner, sparking jubilant fans at the Emirates. Lacazette went close to doubling the Gunners’ advantage in the 70th min as he met Xhaka’s inswinging corner, but his header flew inches wide of the far post. With seven minutes remaining in the game, Griezmann equalized past Koscielny and Ospina and firing into the roof of the net. Ramsey went close to restoring Arsenal’s lead with 3 minutes remaining but saw his header clawed around the post by the amazing Oblak. Arsenal wasted a golden opportunity to put themselves on course for the Europa League final after conceding a devastating late equalizer against 10-man Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final clash. The Gunners led through Alexandre Lacazette and were in control against a Spanish side playing with 10 men from the 10th minute. But the defensive problems allowed Antoine Griezmann handed the visitors an away goal and the advantage going into next week’s second leg in Madrid. Arsenal came out of the traps quickly, with Lacazette hitting the post from an arching Danny Welbeck cross, before the Frenchman saw a glancing header stopped by Jan Oblak. In the opening 12 minutes, Atletico Madrid saw fullback Sime Vrsaljko sent off for two yellow cards and Simeone was sent to the stands for his loud protests at referee Clement Turpin. Croatian international Vrsaljko was initially booked for bringing down Jack Wilshere in the second minute before a late lunge caught Lacazette on the angle eight minutes later and he was dismissed. In two minutes Simeone followed his defender down the tunnel, the Argentine’s animated and vociferous protestations were offensive for the French officials. It was not the first time the temperamental Argentine has been shown red. Laurent Koscielny sliced wide, before Nacho Montreal fired his volley to the wrong side of the post. Just after the half-hour mark, it was the Spanish side who came closest to taking the lead. Antoine Griezmann who was stopped by David Ospina moments before, fired a strike after a strong run into the area from Thomas Partey, only to see Ospina make a fine diving save. Atletico, even with 10 men, showed the talent they have demonstrated all season when they proved hard to beat for all but the best in Europe. Frustration continued until Lacazette’s goal just after the hour mark. Griezmann lost out when trying to flick the ball through the legs of Monreal. Then Wilshere was at the byline, standing up a cross to the back post onto which Lacazette pounced, rising above Lucas Hernandez to head past the despairing dive of Oblak. Arsenal were jubilant and Atletico looked like they may settle for a 1-0 defeat, when German Burgos brought on Stefan Savic, the defender, for Angel Correa. Nacho Monreal didn’t keep the defensive line and kept Griezmann onside. Laurent Koscielny stumbled. Ospina denied Griezmann, but the No.7 picked up on the rebound and forced it home, despite Shkodran Mustafi’s best efforts.

After the match retiring Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was asked if he felt like the draw with Atletico Madrid was a defeat. "Yes. because I think, looking at the performance and the way the game went, it was the worst possible result for us,” replied Wenger. “But we have to go there in a positive mood and qualify over there. Unfortunately, we gave a goal away from nowhere. We have to recover from the disappointment and prepare for the next one. I think we could already be qualified tonight but it didn’t happen. Their goalkeeper made many saves. You see they have the quality up front, if you make a mistake they take advantage. For us, once we scored the 1-0 it was very important not to concede a goal. They couldn’t score with a combination, they could only score with a long ball. We have to look at ourselves. We know we can score anywhere. Let’s focus on that. What matters is that we go there with absolute belief to do it."

Squads

Arsenal
Ospina; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Xhaka, Wilshere; Welbeck, Özil; Lacazette. Subs from: Cech, Holding, Iwobi, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Nketiah.

Atlético Madrid Oblak; Vrsaljko, Gimenez, Godin, Lucas; Correa, Saúl Niguez, Partey, Koke; Gameiro, Griezmann. Subs from: Werner, Torres, Gabi, Savic, Diego Costa, Vitolo, Olabe.

Referee: Clément Turpin (France).

Alexandre Lacazette was asked about his goal. “It was a great goal, a great cross, but it’s not enough,” said Lacazette. “We wanted to win tonight, and we need a great result next week. It’s my job to score some goals but I can’t score without my team-mates. I’m happy, I feel good. It’s good for me. I really want to go in the final. Maybe the player who wants it the most.” Danny Welbeck talked about the result. “It’s disappointing. To take the lead and then to concede a goal right near the end, yeah, we’re disappointed with that. We’ll do a bit of analysis. We’ve got to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We’ve got to be positive. We’ve got a platform and we can build on top of that. There were opportunities there for us to score. It gives us a little bit of positivity going into the second leg, knowing we can create chances against a very good side. We know we can score against them. We did it tonight. We’re positive. We know we can create opportunities and hopefully put them in the back of the net. Going into a semi-final you don’t need any extra incentive. You want to get through to the final. We wanted to win before the manager announced he was leaving, and we want to win after as well. We’re professionals and that’s what we’re here to do.” Marseille won the other Europa League game 2-0 FC Red Bull Salzburg. Arsenal next travel to Old Trafford on Sunday to face Manchester United, before jetting off to Madrid for the second leg of this Europa League semi-final.

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