Arsenal FC

Villarreal 2-1 Arsenal: Player ratings as Gunners salvage away goal in first leg defeat

Jude Summerfield
Apr 29, 2021, 10:18 PM GMT+1
Villarreal will take a 2-1 advantage to the Emirates next week
Villarreal will take a 2-1 advantage to the Emirates next week / Soccrates Images/Getty Images
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Arsenal face an uphill battle to reach the Europa League final but did manage to salvage an away goal as they fell to defeat to Unai Emery's Villarreal in a frantic first leg of their semi final on Thursday night.

The visitors fell behind as Samuel Chukwueze wriggled into the box before Manu Trigueros leapt onto the loose ball to fire into the bottom corner. Arsenal's task was made even harder when some slack defending allowed Gerard Moreno to flick a corner into Raul Albiol's path, with the centre back unmarked at the back stick to convert.

Nicolas Pepe
Pepe's penalty means Arsenal are firmly in the tie / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Dani Ceballos got himself sent off for two bookable offences, but the Gunners stayed in the game long enough for Nicolas Pepe to score a penalty before Etienne Capoue was also dismissed, being given his marching orders for two cautions while being stretchered off the pitch with injury.

Arsenal couldn't find an equaliser but the result leaves the tie fascinatingly poised ahead of the return leg at the Emirates next week, with Mikel Arteta's side firmly in it having recovered from a terrible position.

Let's check out the player ratings from a truly entertaining night of Europa League action at Estadio de la Ceramica.

1. Goalkeeper & defenders

Granit Xhaka
Xhaka was again deployed at left back / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Bernd Leno (GK) - 6/10 - Little chance for either goal. Made a few crucial stops, one from Moreno minutes before Arsenal pulled a goal back.

Calum Chambers (RB) - 5/10 - A little laboured and didn't provide much attacking threat from out wide. Started ahead of the benched Hector Bellerin but that selection choice didn't pay off.

Rob Holding (CB) - 5/10 - Nodded an Odegaard free kick wide in the first half. Was captain for the night but didn't lead well enough as defensive lapses cost Arsenal two goals.

Pablo Mari (CB) - 5/10 - Lack of pace was exploited a few times as Villarreal got in behind the centre back.

Granit Xhaka (LB) - 6/10 - Had the tough task of handling Chukwueze and couldn't do enough to stop him in the build-up for the first goal. Stood up his opposite man with more conviction in the second half.

2. Midfielders

Dani Ceballos
Ceballos red card left Arsenal in a precarious position / David Ramos/Getty Images

Thomas Partey (CM) - 6/10 - Helped Arsenal play from box to box reasonably well but there was a distinct lack of rhythm from their play, stemming from midfield. Looks like he needs a reliable partner to get the best from him.

Dani Ceballos (CM) - 3/10 - Did the old 'hands behind the back instead of defending properly' move while trying to help Xhaka for Villarreal's opener. Helped Arsenal play out of Villarreal's press nicely a few times. Struggled with Juan Foyth on the right, being booked for hauling him down on one occasion. Late challenge on Dani Parejo saw him earn a second caution to complete a poor night all in all.

Martin Odegaard (AM) - 5/10 - Took most of Arsenal's set pieces but struggled to get it right. Made three key passes before being hooked for Gabriel Martinelli.

3. Forwards

Bukayo Saka (RW) - 6/10 - Energetic on the right and, like so often this season, provided the spark Arsenal needed to get back into the game. Won the penalty that allowed Pepe to score, giving his side a priceless away goal in dire circumstances.

Emile Smith Rowe (CF) - 6/10 - Given the tough task of leading the line with Alexandre Lacazette not fit enough for the squad and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang only on the bench. Drifted in and out of the build-up play and made a few successful dribbles.

Nicolas Pepe (LW) - 7/10 - Looked like he'd earned his side a penalty with some great work down the left, but a VAR intervention saw the decision chalked off for a handball by the Ivorian in the build-up. Kept his cool from the spot to keep Arsenal firmly in the tie.

4. Substitutes

Gabriel Martinelli - 5/10 - Came on for Odegaard but made little impact.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - 5/10 - Introduced late on and forced a save from Geronimo Rulli from a tight angle.

Mohamed Elneny - N/A

Willian - N/A

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