Arsenal faced Benfica in Athens for the Europa League’s Round of 32 return leg. We have the player ratings.
Arsenal are through to the Europa League’s next round after a very tough game against Benfica in Athens. The Gunners benefited from the brilliant individual performances of Bukayo Saka and Aubameyang.
Although Benfica had a good start to the game, Arsenal were clinical and put the ball in the net in their first attempt. 19-year-old Saka delivered a perfect assist to Aubameyang who flicked it past Leite in style.
However, Benfica improved through the first half and were awarded with a tremendous free-kick from Diogo Goncalves. Besides a very promising performance from the 24-year-old, Goncalves also scored his first senior-level goal for Benfica.
A very entertaining second half at the Karaiskakis Stadium.
After the break, both sides entered the pitch looking for the win and clearly rejecting the possibility of extra-time. Nevertheless, it was the Portuguese side who celebrated again in Athens. Helton Leite looked like Benfica’s former goalkeeper Ederson as he placed a long ball in Arsenal’s last third of the pitch. In fact, Rafa Silva displayed his intelligence as he took advantage of a terrible missed clearance from Ceballos.
However, it only took the Gunners five minutes to restore the tie and shorten the gap to an away goal advantage. Everton gave Tierney too much space in the box and the left-back gave Arsenal hope with a powerful ground-level strike.
Jorge Jesus’ men didn’t shy away from the game and even went looking for a way to end Arsenal’s hopes. However, there was no stopping Saka tonight. The Gunners’ prodigy saw his left side wide open and used his preferred foot to deliver another perfect assist to Aubameyang. This time, the inspired striker scored Arsenal’s winning goal with an easy header.
Mikel Arteta’s men are now the second English side to qualify to the Europa League’s Round of 16 after Tottenham’s win against Wolfsberger this Wednesday. Arsenal’s hopes of winning the competition and securing a Champions League spot next season remain alive.
Arsenal: Leno (6), Bellerin (5), Gabriel (6), Luiz (6), Tierney (7), Ceballos (5), Xhaka (6), Odegaard (7), Smith Rowe (6), Saka (8), Aubameyang (8).
Bench: Willian (6), Partey (5), Lacazette (5), Chambers (N/A),
Benfica: Leite (7), Verissimo (5), Otamendi (5), Vertonghen (6), Goncalves (7), Grimaldo (5), Weigl (7), Taarabt (6), Pizzi (6), Silva (7), Seferovic (6).
Bench: Nunez (6), Everton (5), Gabriel (5), Tavares (5), Waldschmidt (N/A).
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