The first leg of the UEFA Europa League Semi Final between Arsenal and Atletico Madrid ended 1-1 at the Emirates. The scoreboard is in no sense evident of what happened on the pitch tonight.
The hosts kicked off the game with complete control over the game. It was all Arsenal for the entire 90 as they went on to take 28 shots and completed 7 times the number of passes as their opponents tonight.
They controlled possession and battered the Atletico goal line with well-created chances, some of them half, some clear.
Within minutes of the opening whistle, drama ensued as Sime Vrsaljko got sent off for a double booking. Diego Simeone too got sent back to the stands after contesting a Bellerin tackle.
Little changed on the pitch as Arsenal continued their dominance. Almost everybody was having a go but Madrid created a couple of their own.
Antoine Griezmann smashed in a powered effort to force a save out of David Ospina.
The second half started in similar fashion and Lacazette finally opened the scoring with a well-guided header. Jack
Wilshere somehow found himself on the left and lobbed in a perfectly weighted ball. The Frenchman towered over two Madrid defenders to get himself the goal at the hour mark. 1-0
Arsene Wenger’s kept pushing for the second and won back possession within seconds of losing it. However, it seems like all the missed chances came back to haunt the very thing they feared – the Atletico equaliser. A ball got launched from deep as Greizmann went shoulder to shoulder with his compatriot, Koscielny. The former won the battle and got an open shot on goal. Both Ospina and Mustafi scrambled to contain the Frenchman but alas, the away goal got registered. 1-1
A couple more attempts for Arsenal later the referee blew the final whistle. Aaron Ramsey’s header was travelling towards the far post but Oblak did remarkably well to keep it out of the goal.
Here is how the Arsenal players were rated on the night.
David Ospina – 6/10
Since when did Ospina start looking like David De Gea while on the ball? The Colombian looked cooler than a summer breeze tonight and put a solid hand to both the Madrid attacks in the first half. He even stopped the initial Greizmann shot with his legs but was helpless on the rebound. Unlucky.
Hector Bellerin – 7/10
A very positive display by the Spaniard. He put Lucas to work on the right-hand side and delivered a few wonderful balls into the box.
Shkodran Mustafi – 7/10
Unfortunate to have slipped at the goal line but did manage to get a knee to Griezmann’s shot. He made no errors tonight and looked solid.
Laurent Koscielny – 5/10
Fast to read the game and clear out any potential danger. Looked unfazed against the pacey Gameiro but it all came down to that just one incident which will judge his game entirely. Should have done better against the smaller statured Greizmann.
Nacho Monreal – 7/10
Had a couple of chances on goal, one of them a powered volley with the weaker right. A lot of energy going forward and equally disciplined at the back.
Granit Xhaka – 7/10
He managed to get rid of his bad habits tonight (other than that obligatory long ranger from the Emirates parking lot) and commanded the Arsenal midfield.
Aaron Ramsey – 7/10
Not the best night for the Welshman in terms of controlling possession but still hugely impactful. Won back the ball plenty of times and made the back door runs to constantly threaten the opposition backline. He really put Oblak to the test and came alive in the second half. Unlucky to not get on the scoring sheet.
Jack Wilshere – 7/10
Same goes for Wilshere. Not the most prolific but his presence was felt. Linked up the attacks perfectly and lobbed in a perfectly weighted ball to get the assist.
Mesut Ozil – 7/10
Much better than his recent lacklustre games. Weaved his way through the Madrid defence to create solid opportunities.
Danny Welbeck – 6/10
Had some of the best scoring chances for the Gunners. Couldn’t get the ball past Oblak when one-on-one with the keeper and couldn’t get a touch onto Lacazette’s flashed-in ball.
Alexandre Lacazette – 9/10
The man in form but not clinical enough with his chances. A tireless worker nevertheless and quite deserved of the goal.
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Former athlete. Now a journalist hoping to cover football no matter the league or country.