Sporting CP 2-2 Arsenal: Player ratings as pulsating first leg finishes even
Arsenal will have a slight advantage over Sporting CP in the second leg of their Europa League last 16 tie next week thanks to a 2-2 draw in Lisbon on Thursday night - the aggregate score-line essentially makes it a winner takes all one-off at the Emirates Stadium.
William Saliba headed the Gunners into a first half lead, before Sporting turned things around in exciting fashion through Goncalo Inacio and Paulinho either side of half-time. But a Hidemasa Morita own goal ultimately ensured the first 90 minutes would finish level.
Despite dominating possession from the beginning, it was a relatively slow start from the Gunners and Sporting the best chance in the opening stages. Pedro Goncalves found himself in a great position on the left side of the Arsenal box but couldn’t get the bend on his right-footed – his visible frustrations suggested he knew he should have done better.
Arsenal came more alive as the half progressed but it was actually a set piece that gave them the lead. Saliba connected with a Fabio Vieira corner to head past Sporting goalkeeper Antonio Adan.
The Gunners had the chance to double their lead not long afterwards. Oleksandr Zinchenko struck a free-kick that was blocked by the Sporting wall, but at the second attempt the Ukrainian fizzed a dipping shot that Adan needed to tip over the bar.
Despite Arsenal being in control, Sporting fired a warning shot just over half an hour in when Inacio sent a low drive goalward that Matt Turner turned wide of the post. But from the resultant Marcus Edwards corner, Inacio was there again to head in the equaliser. Energetic former Spurs player Edwards soon had his own chance when another long-range shot was again saved by Turner.
Buoyed by the goal, Sporting even finished the first half the stronger of the sides, with Turner let off the hook with a poor pass that was cut out by Paulinho on the edge of the box – had Edwards been more alert it could have been disastrous for the Arsenal goalkeeper.
Arsenal weren’t making the most of their possession and Sporting took full advantage soon after the restart. After one dangerous ball to the back post had already been cleared, the Portuguese side came again and when Turner saved from Goncalves, Paulinho was there for a rebound tap-in.
Both teams went on to spurn glorious chances in the minutes that followed. First, Gabriel Martinelli went though on goal and rounded Adan, only to see Jerry St Juste catch up and toe the ball away. At the other end, Paulinho was also going through but completely missed the target.
Adan was called into another save when he tipped a Vieira header over the bar, but there was more than a touch of good fortune about Arsenal’s equaliser. Morita was credited with the own goal but knew precious little about it as Granit Xhaka’s wayward shot cannoned off the Japan international, completely changing the direction of the ball, which nestled in the bottom corner.
Arsenal managed to take the sting out of the game as the clock ticked away, controlling the ball well away from their goal to keep Sporting from mounting any late charge for a winner. A late Saka shot from the edge of the box was well held by Adan and there no was way through for either side.
Arsenal player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Matt Turner - 5/10 - Culpable for Sporting's equaliser with hesitancy as the corner was whipped into the box. Appeared to be lacking confidence and match practice. Did make other decent saves.
RB: Ben White - 5/10 - Passed plenty but didn't offer a lot going forward.
CB: William Saliba - 7/10 - Rose highest to head Arsenal into the lead.
CB: Jakub Kiwior - 5/10 - Oddly ducked down when the corner for Inacio's goal was scored instead of even attempting to head it clear.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko - 5/10 - Almost scored a screamer in the first half but not his best defensive performance against the spritely Edwards.
CM: Fabio Vieira - 7/10 - Posed a threat in a few different ways. Got an assist from a corner.
CM: Jorginho - 5/10 - Sideways and backwards. Just safe.
CM: Granit Xhaka (c) - 6/10 - Took the shot on that forced Morita's own goal. Also had another headed chance that was well saved. Hardly gave the ball away.
RW: Bukayo Saka - 5/10 - Didn't see enough of the ball to really hurt Sporting like he can.
ST: Gabriel Martinelli - 7/10 - Deployed centrally rather than on the left. Involved in plenty of promising attacks, although did missed some decent opportunities.
LW: Reiss Nelson - 6/10 - Had a coupe of shots that didn't threaten.
SUB: Takehiro Tomiyasu (63' for Zinchenko) - 7/10
SUB: Gabriel (71' for Kiwior) - 6/10
SUB: Thomas Partey (71' for Jorginho) - 6/10
SUB: Emile Smith Rowe (71' for Nelson) - 6/10
Mikel Arteta - 6/10 - Put faith in a few second string players and won't have been happy to see Sporting get back into after his team had already taken the lead. Subs seemed to calm things down when the second half threatened to get out of hand.