Arsenal were sloppy and disjointed at times, but the Gunners departed Lisbon with a fortunate 2-2 draw after a wacky and wild 90 minutes against Sporting CP in the first leg of their Europa League Round of 16 matchup.
Mikel Arteta made six changes to his starting lineup, some forced and others not, knowing there are many key fixtures in the coming weeks as Arsenal fight on multiple fronts, including a fierce Premier League title chase. It showed, as the Gunners were messy in key moments, allowing Sporting to prove dangerous on the counter throughout the match.
William Saliba opened the scoring midway through the first half as he deposited a towering header into the back of the net on a corner, but Sporting equalised 12 minutes later in nearly identical fashion through Goncalo Inacio.
The start of the second half was utterly insane, as Paulinho put Sporting in front after the Arsenal defence fell asleep. Both sides botched great chances to pick out goals before a totally fluky own-goal from Hidemasa Morita saw the Gunners draw level.
The sides will meet again next week for the reverse fixture in London, where Arsenal will fancy their chances as the home side, but Arteta may think twice about rotating the squad knowing the replacements offer a significant drop-off in quality. Sporting, meanwhile, will rue their missed chances knowing key midfielder Morita and defender Sebastian Coates will miss the second leg due to yellow card suspensions.
The Sporting News followed the match live and provided score updates, commentary and highlights as they happened.
Sporting CP vs Arsenal live updates, highlights, commentary
FULLTIME: Sporting 2-2 Arsenal
An Arsenal corner is cleared at the death, and it finishes level in Lisbon as Arsenal come away with a road draw against a good Sporting CP side.
As a whole, the 90 minutes were pretty insane, as both sides were sloppy in various moments. The visitors were especially mistake-prone, as Mikel Arteta’s changes resulted in some disjointed play, especially at the back. New defender Jakub Kiwior was poor, and Cup goalkeeper Matt Turner also had a rough showing.
Arsenal were lucky to get the equaliser in fluky fashion, but they were good enough in moments to where the level scoreline on the whole is a fair result.
Sporting CP vs Arsenal: Second Half
90+3 min: Chance, Arsenal! Bukayo Saka, who’s been quiet in front of goal today, cuts inside onto his left foot and fires a vicious shot on goal, but it’s not placed well, too central and direct at the goalkeeper, and Antonio Adan can make a clean catch. It’s Saka’s second shot of the match, both coming in the last three minutes, as he was far more involved in the buildup than the finish.
90+1 min: There’s four minutes of added time shown, and Mikel Arteta is as animated as ever on the Arsenal touchline, applauding his team’s every touch and trying to inject some life into them to steal a victory very late in a game they haven’t had their best.
89th min: Sporting make another change, as Marcus Edwards, who was very lively, exits in favour of Abdul Issahaku.
85th min: The game’s gotten a bit ridiculous down the stretch here, as both sides see players go down in apparent agony under very little contact, only to get up moments later when the referee has none of it. The hosts are screaming for a foul at every coming together. It’s a bit intense, but not in the way it was earlier in the half when the game was alive with actual football.
Meanwhile, Fabio Vieira goes down in the penalty area and there’s a shout for a penalty, as Ousmane Diomonde did stick a hand out to block the Arsenal playmaker, but the referee waves it away.