London calling for Sporting CP after 2-2 first leg with Arsenal
09 Mar, 2023
The Europa League tie will be settled in England
Sporting Clube de Portugal's UEFA Europa League Round of 16 tie with Arsenal remains wide open, after Os Leões drew 2-2 with the English side at the Estádio José Alvalade in the first leg.
Without the suspended Manuel Ugarte or former Arsenal player Hector Bellerín, injured in yesterday's training session, Rúben Amorim made four changes to his starting lineup, with Jeremiah St. Juste, Matheus Reis, Francisco Trincão and Paulinho returning to the initial eleven.
It was the Gunners who enjoyed more possession in the opening minutes, although the first close call belonged to Sporting CP. On the left wing, Pedro Gonçalves entered the area, got past a defender and unleashed a shot just off the target.
Although Sporting CP had been holding up well, it was the visitors who opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, off a corner headed in by Saliba.
Oleksander Zinchenko forced Adán into a save off a shot from distance, but Os Leões responded with the equaliser. After a first threat from Gonçalo Inácio, kept out by goalkeeper Matt Turner, the resulting corner was converted by the centre back to make it 1-1.
Marcus Edwards was denied by Turner and Adán made another block from a Granit Xhaka header as the goalkeepers gained protagonism, and it was Edwards who enjoyed the last chance of the first half: Breaking away after Arsenal conceded a turnover in the middle of the park, he took too long to move upfield and the referee blew for halftime.
The intensity remained in the second half. Sporting CP tried to score through Morita, who shot wide after an excellent buildup by Trincão leading the counterattack, and the English side fought back with an effort from Martinelli that was saved and a Fábio Vieira strike wide.
Sporting CP were increasingly comfortable and confident, and transferred this to their attack. In the 55th minute their work paid off, as Paulinho scored on the rebound from an initial shot by Pedro Gonçalves, with the fans at the Estádio José Alvalade exploding for the second time and pushing the team on for more.
St. Juste blocked a Martinelli shot after rushing back and Paulinho clipped over when through on the goalkeeper, and in the 62nd minute Sporting CP received some bad luck when a strike took a deflection off Morita to beat Adán and took the score to 2-2.
Amorim decided to make his first substitutions, with Nuno Santos, Ousmane Diomande and Youssef Chermiti coming on in a phase of the match played at a slower pace.
Arsenal appeared content to maintain the scoreline, whilst Sporting CP attempted to go forward whenever the chance presented itself.
A few tame shots from either side rounded off the game, and the final score of 2-2 leaves everything at stake for the second leg in London next Thursday.
Before the return fixture, Sporting CP host Boavista FC in Liga Portugal action.
Sporting CP: Antonio Adán [GK], Jeremiah St. Juste, Sebastián Coates [C], Gonçalo Inácio, Ricardo Esgaio (Ousmane Diomandé, 77’), Pedro Gonçalves, Hidemasa Morita, Matheus Reis, Marcus Edwards (Fatawu Issahaku, 89’), Francisco Trincão (Nuno Santos, 71’) and Paulinho (Youssef Chermiti, 77’).