Arsenal snuck into the quarter finals of the Europa League despite slipping to 1-0 second-leg defeat at home to Olympiacos on Thursday, with the Gunners progressing 3-2 on aggregate.
Already leading 3-1 from the first leg, Arsenal did not show much urgency in the first half, but skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, back in the side after being dropped for last weekend’s north London derby win, should have scored from a good position.
Youssef El-Arabi caused the Gunners some concern as he scored for the third successive Europa League game against Arsenal in the 51st minute to get the Greek champions back in the tie.
Smith Rowe signs… Villa wouldn’t, would they? – The Warm-Up
Arsenal should have put the tie to bed but missed several chances before Ousseynou Ba’s needless red card for punching the ball in the referee’s direction ended Olympiacos’ chances and saw Arsenal through.
Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) reacts
Image credit: Getty Images
Mikel Arteta seemed to be taking no chances despite the first leg advantage as he named a strong side, but the Gunners were troubled after just 20 minutes as El-Arabi brought a fine save out of Bernd Leno, moments before Aubameyang’s miss from a great position.
Otherwise the play was laboured as Arsenal were happy to sit back on their lead, with Olympiacos enjoying plenty of possession without creating too many further openings.
In the second half, Arsenal created further chances, but could not put the tie to bed. Nicolas Pepe should have equalised late on in the second half but fired straight at the goalkeeper, before Aubameyang again should have found the net.
Ba's moment of madness at the death, as he picked up a yellow card for a foul on Gabriel Martinelli before punching the ball towards the referee in frustration, earning him a quick-fire second, saw him sent off, helped Arsenal see out the game and reach the Europa League last eight for the third time in four years.
TALKING POINT - Does Aubameyang deserve his spot?
Afterr his remarkable tardiness at the weekend, all was forgiven as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was back in the Gunners side, donning the captain's armband.
But after another match where he missed a host of chances, Mikel Arteta has a decision to make after the international break.
Arsenal earned a much-needed victory over Tottenham in last Sunday's north London derby without their skipper, and it is not as if this season Aubameyang has brought much to the table. He cannot be considered an automatic choice anymore, with his exploits against Olympiacos further proof he remains as frustrating as ever.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Youseff El-Arabi
If the Olympiacos forward had some help, then this may have been a different result. El-Arabi has been in red-hit form this season, and he dragged Arsenal defenders around all evening at the Emirates.
Arsenal: Leno 7, Bellerin 5, Luiz 5, Gabriel 6, Tierney 5, Ceballos 4, Elneny 5, Xhaka 5, Pepe 5, Aubameyang 4, Smith Rowe 6... Subs: Chambers 6, Partey 6, Odegaard 6, Martinelli 6.
Olympiacos: Jose Sa 7, Ba 4, Sokratis 6, Holebas 6, Androutsos 6, Camara 6, M'Vila 6, Reabciuk 6, Masouras 6, El Arabi 8, Fortounis 7... Subs: Bruma 6, Randelovic 6.
18’ - CLOSE! Ceballos threads the ball through for Nicolas Pepe, who rounds the onrushing goalkeeper, tries to hook the ball for goal, it is half-blocked, and rolls agonisingly into the side-netting.
20’ - SAVE! Crucial stop from Bernd Leno after El-Arabi latches onto a long punt from Olmypiakos goalkeeper Jose Sa and fires for goal. Terrible defending from the Gunners to let that long ball drift over the top.
24’ - OVER! Big chance again! This time for Aubameyang after being picked out by Ceballos, but he toe-pokes over from a great position.
51’ - GGGGGOOOOOOAAALLLLL!! Arsenal 0-1 Olympiakos (agg: 3-2). Poor from Arsenal as Olympiakos break and El-Arabi gets his side back in the tie.
‘A concrete hypothesis’ – Ronaldo return to Man Utd hyped up – Euro Papers
78’ - OVER! That sums up Arsenal this season as Smith Rowe blazes well over the top from a great position.
80’ - CHANCE! That was the moment to put this to bed, but after opening his body up, Pepe side-foots straight at Sa.
81- MISS! Another great chance as Olympiacos open up, but Aubameyang, after racing clear, clips over Sa but cannot hit the target,
84’ - RED CARD! A moment of madness from Ousseynou Ba as he fouls Martinelli to get a yellow card, before earning himself a quick second for punching the ball away in frustration in the referee's direction!
Olympiakos forward Youssef El-Arabi is just the fourth player to score in three consecutive matches against Arsenal in major European competition, after Lionel Messi (March 2016), Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski (both March 2017).
Arsenal have now conceded in each of their last 11 matches across all competitions – their longest run without a clean sheet since a stretch of 14 matches without a shut out between October – December 2019.
Arsenal have made it to the quarter-finals for the fourth time in their last five Europa League/UEFA Cup campaigns (knocked out at Last 32 stage last season), after failing to reach that stage in each of their first five attempts.
Smith Rowe signs new Arsenal contract to put a stop on Villa’s transfer interest
Arsenal cancel trip to Florida Cup after Covid outbreak