Villarreal 2-1 Arsenal: The Gunners get slim hope after Pepe equaliser
Arsenal emerge with something approaching dignity in first leg defeat after digging themselves out of a very big hole losing 2-1 to Villarreal.
Manu Trigueros gave Villarreal an early lead, firing home from inside the penalty area after being teed up by Samuel Chuckwiese.
Arsenal went a further goal behind after falling asleep at a corner and allowed Raul Albiol to stab home.
Having been awarded a penalty only to have it overturned by VAR, the jig looked well and truly up for Mikel Arteta’s men when Dani Ceballos was sent off.
But they were thrown a lifeline in the form of a penalty won by Bukayo Saka. Nicolas Pepe made no mistake and Arsenal’s hopes received a further boost when Etienne Capoue was sent off after receiving his second yellow card. Almost literally adding insult to injury, it was shown to him as he was carried off on a stretcher.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could have equalised at the death for Arsenal after coming off the bench but was denied by Geronimo Rulli in the Villarreal goal.
They’ll settle for losing by the odd goal of three, all things considered. They rode their luck a little but ultimately did well to get themselves out of jail.
Arsenal manager Mikela Arteta agreed had no choice but to accept the result.
“We didn’t want to come here and lose but after the way the game developed, being 2-0 down with 10 men, you have to take the result,” he told BT Sport.
“We started to be us and in the first half there were so many moments when we weren’t us,” he said. “We weren’t clear with our high press, we disorganised ourselves and started to chase. We weren’t precise with the ball. We didn’t have control. We found good combinations but we didn’t have enough threat. We didn’t have enough desire to attack the opponents’ box. In the second half it was completely different.”
Bukayo Saka did confirm that there were a couple of moments Arsenal could ride on as they do in for the second leg.
“There’s a lot of positives from the second half but to start a Europa League semi-final like this, it’s impossible to have a chance of scoring,”
“We didn’t create anything, we lost every duel, we were passive … it’s really frustrating to look back on it.
“I’m just happy that in the second half we picked ourselves up, we got a good chance and we managed to score. We’ve given ourselves a chance at the Emirates. In the second half, we definitely showed that we are better than them and even with 10 men we were dominating them. When we play properly we can beat anyone.”
Arsenal were awarded a penalty after Saka prodded the ball ahead of him, wafted his leg in the direction of a nearby defender, hooked his ankle around that of his opponent and went to ground.
Arsenal will have to be more technical if they are to possibly over turn the first leg defeat at the Emirates stadium.