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Friday, March 24, 2023

Arsenal Held Back by Late Slavia Prague Equaliser

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Slavia Prague took charge of their Europa League quarter-final against wasteful Arsenal on Thursday, stealing an away goal deep into stoppage time to rescue a 1-1 draw at the Emirates

Nicolas Pepe had broken the deadlock for Arsenal in the 86th minute after a night of glaring misses in the first leg of the last-eight tie.

But Tomas Holes headed in a last-gasp equaliser to leave the contest finely poised.

Mikel Arteta’s team are realistically out of the running to finish in the top four of the Premier League, meaning they must win the second-tier European competition to reach next season’s Champions League.

Arsenal came into the match after a chastening 3-0 defeat against Liverpool last weekend.

Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe were passed fit to start but captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was dropped to the bench.

Saka, who missed the Liverpool defeat, was a regular threat down the Arsenal right but his delivery into the box was poor.

The England international missed a golden chance to break the deadlock when he steered wide with only goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar to beat and Rob Holding forced a fine save with a header.

The visitors’ only real chance of the opening period came when Lukas Provod fired just over following a Slavia raid down the right.

Arsenal came agonisingly close to taking the lead early in the second half when Willian — still seeking his first goal for the club — struck the outside of the post from a free-kick.

Saka then burst forward down the right but his cross sailed harmlessly over the heads of his team-mates after a finely worked move.

The home side then had a scare but Slavia’s Jan Boril forced a save from keeper Bernd Leno.

Just after the hour mark Arsenal should have been ahead when forward Alexandre Lacazette stole the ball from the last defender near the half-way and charged forward with only the goalkeeper to beat.

The France international opened up his body and looked certain to score but his shot hit the crossbar.

Thomas Partey then fired wide for Arsenal moments before substitute Petr Sevcik missed a glorious chance to grab an away goal.

Arteta threw on Aubameyang, Pepe and Mohamed Elneny in the 78th minute and it almost reaped immediate dividends but Aubameyang steered wide.

Suddenly Arsenal upped the tempo and substitute Gabriel Martinelli forced a fine save from Kolar.

They finally got the breakthrough they deserved when Aubameyang fed the ball to Pepe, who raced into the box and dinked the ball over the goalkeeper.

Arsenal looked set to travel to the away leg with the advantage but the Czechs had other ideas.


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