By George Stephens •
Published: 28 Feb 2020 • 9:48
Arsenal 1 Olympiacos 2 (Agg 2-2 Olympiacos go through on away goals)
Spain’s Mikel Arteta suffered a blow last night as his Arsenal team went out.
One thing you can guarantee in modern day football is that Arsenal are officially the long term holders of the ‘Banter F.C’ title as this was yet another false dawn for their long suffering supporters who seem to have now given up in finding any possible light in the long dark tunnel. The amount of mismanagement over the years from within the club has finally caught up with them and I’m confident they are looking at many years of mediocrity. Their squad, which is full of players who are basically stealing a living requires a complete overhaul but unfortunately their owners don’t seem to really give a damn.
Arsenal held a 1-0 advantage from the opening leg and would have advanced to the last 16 of the competition had they avoided defeat.
Mikel Arteta made just two changes to the side that beat Everton last Sunday. Buyako Saka returned to replace the injured Sead Kolasinac at left-back, while Alexandre Lacazette was also recalled to lead the line ahead of Eddie Nketiah. Seven of his starting 11 began last week’s victory in Greece. Meanwhile, for Olympiacos, Pedro Martins’ sole change from Sunday’s win over PAOK in the Greek Super League was enforced, as Pape Abou Cisse replaced the suspended Ruben Semedo in the heart of defence. Semedo aside, it was the same team that began the first leg seven days ago.
It was a bright start for Arsenal as they forced the first corner of the game in the 3rd minute, which was dealt with by Olympiacos and soon after, Ozil clipped the ball into the box but the visiting keeper gathered.
Olympiacos did then enjoy the first decent spell of procession by the 8th minute but that quickly changed just moments later as they had some defending to do, but they carried out those duties effectively by making solids blocks to deny efforts from both Xhaka and Pepe.
In the 19th minute Olympiacos started to threaten on the counter attack as Mustafi was forced to make a vital interception to cut out a potentially dangerous cross from the left flank.
If I’m honest the game then started to become a bore-feast as both teams become sloppy in possession, Arsenal were also guilty of misplacing relatively simple passes on a regular basis. Arteta looked unimpressed on the touchline as he constantly barked out instructions to his players but those orders seemed to fall on deaf ears.
On the 36th minute the visitors wasted what was the best opportunity up until that point. Arsenal defender Bellerin was caught out of position and a neat exchange of passes released Camera through on goal. However, with Luiz recovering ground and Leno closing the angle, the midfielder lost his nerve at the vital moment and drilled his effort wide of the target.
Space started to open up by this point and in the 39th minute the home team put the ball into the back of the net but it was offside. Lacazette arrived late to turn home Saka’s inviting low cross into the six-yard area. However, the offside flag had already been raised after the full-back began his run a fraction too early.
At the other end just a couple of minutes later the last main action of the first half took place, some space opened up for El-Arabi and he tried his luck from distance. But the forward’s drilled effort lacked power and was easily gathered by Leno.
The second half started as lacklustre as the whole of the first half but the deadline was finally broken in the 53rd minute with the visitors going 1-0 up meaning that the tie was all square. Centre-half Cisse was the man who levelled up the contest on aggregate as he headed home from Valbuena’s corner. In all fairness it was a delicious corner that was just begging to be attacked.
Shortly after Olympiacos almost scored a second as Tsimikas cut inside from the left before looking for the top corner with a bending effort that required a great save from Leno as he tipped it away.
As the contest was finely poised Arteta then turned to the bench in the 72nd minute as he made the first change of the game with Ceballos making way for Lucas Torreira. Worryingly up until that point Arsenal hadn’t even recorded a shot on target and I feel that his change may have been forced by the home fans becoming restless. Then just a couple of minutes after his change, Arsenal looked to have restored the initiative as visiting goalkeeper Sa rescued his team as he reacted brilliantly to deny Pepe’s curling effort. Then seconds later, Lacazette was unable to react quickly enough to turn the ball home.
The home team were then turning up the pressure and in the 81st minute Lacazette had a further chance to score. A neat dummy from Ozil wrong footed Cisse and allowed the ball to run through for the Frenchman, whose 20-yard strike went high and wie of the target. Just a few minutes later, this time it was Torreira who had a go from just outside of the area, but Sa held onto his fierce attempt.
So with the score-line being 0-1 on the night and 1-1 on aggregate, I was actually gutted that I have to sit through a further 30 minutes of extra time as up until that point I had seen more entertainment on a Sunday morning at Hackney Marshes!
It took 14 minutes of extra time for either team to create an opportunity. Olympiacos squandered a terrific opportunity to edge their noses in front. Gaspar was brilliantly picked out on the edge of the Arsenal area. Despite having time to steady himself, the defender rushed his effort and blazed a volley off-target.
On the 108th minute a coat of paint denied the visitors as Masouras looked for the top corner with a bending effort that beat Leno, but it crashed against the top of the crossbar.
Arsenal then finally applied some pressure and Aubameyang scored a tremendous goal in the 113th minute. Ozil’s cross was helped on by Martinelli and it deflected into the air, before Aubameyang unleashed a stunning scissor kick that flew past Sa.
However their celebrations didn’t last long as 6 minutes later El-Arabi scored to make it 2-1 to the visitors on the night and it sent the travelling support into ecstasy. Leno conceded a cheap corner, El-Arabi arrived late to turn home a terrific deep cross from Masouras.
With seconds remaining Aubameyang missed a great chance as he put it wife from inside the six-yard box. A hopeful ball into the box ricocheted kindly for the skipper, who could only shoot off-target with the goal at his mercy.
As the final whistle was blown the Arsenal players fell to their knees as they realised the away goal rule had knocked them out of the competition while I’m sure the visitors celebrated long into the London night. With the dust settles there’s no doubt that questions need to be asked of many Arsenal players but if the owners don’t provide their manager with the required funds then what realistically can Arteta do..?.
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