Europa League: Slavia Prague Earns 1-1 Draw At Arsenal

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Tomas Holes’ last minute header saw Slavia Prague earn a valuable 1-1 draw against Arsenal in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final at the Emirates stadium.

The Gunners left star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench along with wonder-kid Gabriel Martinelli, while Martin Odegaard didn’t make the squad.  Slavia Prague have proven to be stubborn opponents so far in this season’s competition, eliminating Leicester City and Scottish outfit Rangers in the previous two knockout rounds.

The visitors had the first effort on goal when midfielder Lukas Provod fired narrowly over the bar from the edge of the area. Slavia were content to defend deep in numbers and play on the counter-attack as Arsenal struggled to create any clear chances in a bizarre first half.

Bukayo Saka and Rob Holding also went close to giving Arsenal the lead, however, the score remained 0-0 at halftime.

Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe marked by Slavia Prague defenders during Europa League match

After the break, Saka was fouled right on the edge of the penalty area, only for Willian’s resulting free-kick to beat the Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar and hit the post. Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno was then called into action when his outstretched leg kept out Jan Boril’s shot just before the 60th minute.

Minutes later, Alexandre Lacazette found himself racing through one on one with Kolar after Oscar Dorley lost possession in the midfield, only for the French striker to curl his shot against the post, with Emile Smith Rowe unable to convert the rebound.

Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette gestures as he misses one-on-one chance against Slavia Prague

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta then decided to make some late changes, as Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Martinelli were introduced.

The changes almost paid off when Aubameyang almost gave Arsenal the lead after missing narrowly after some build-up play involving Pepe and Smith Rowe. The tie had appeared destined to be heading for a goalless draw after the home side missed numerous promising openings, however, the Gunners finally made a deserved breakthrough.

Aubameyang held the ball up cleverly, before finding Pepe and the Ivorian dribbled past his marker and chipped the ball past Kolar to give Arsenal the lead

Arsenal Winger Nicolas Pepe scores goal against Slavia Prague at the Emirates stadium

It was Pepe’s fourth Europa League goal of the season.

But just as Arsenal thought they had gained a slender lead heading into next Thursday night’s second leg in the Czech capital, Slavia Prague gave themselves a glimmer of hope in the tie.

Arsenal failed to deal with a stoppage-time corner, with the ball in from the right somehow finding its way to the unmarked Holes at the far post, and the Czech Republic right-back  headed the ball into the net past Leno.

Slavia Prague midfielder Tomas Holes scores last minute goal against Arsenal at the Emirates stadium

The match finished 1-1 as Arsenal once again failed to assert its dominance in the game, needing a second leg masterclass to make it to the next round of the Europa League.

“I totally believe that we can go there and win the match, if not I wouldn’t be sitting here,” Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said after the match.

“The mindset has to be to go there and score goals and win the game because we have to score if we want to go through. I think psychologically to go there with 1-0 is completely different to go there with 1-1.”

“Now we know we have to go there and win the game, that we have to score goals and we cannot play any game, we have to go there with the determination to be an attacking team and hurt them,” he added.

Arsenal will play Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Sunday, and then play the return fixture against Slavia Prague next week Thursday.

Other Europa League results

Ajax 1-2 Roma

Dinamo Zagreb 0-1 Villarreal

Granada 0-2 Manchester United

 

Chidi Nwoke.

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