Hard-fighting Atletico Madrid forced Arsenal to a one-one draw in the first leg of this year’s Europa Cup semi-final match played inside the Emirate Stadium. The Spanish team – though reduced to ten men after a red card was issued to their player, Sime Vrsaljko – defended resolutely, showed a great knowledge of tactical adjustment in the face of adversity and did themselves a great service by scoring a vital away goal in spite of the odds that were stacked against them.
The first forty five minutes was replete with a lot of excitement, that resulted from the beauty of the football on display and the consequence the controversial calls of the referee had on the match .
Arsenal were very rampant in the opening ten minutes, and this saw them launching unrelenting waves of attacking play against the visiting team.
The good goalkeeping of Jan Oblak prevented Alexandre Lacazette from scoring two goals inside the first ten minutes.
The complexion of the game changed when referee Clement Turpin issued a red card to Vrsaljko after the player received the second yellow card for what was deemed to be cynical tackle.
More drama erupted in the thirteenth minute of the game when the no-nonsense central referee , Turpin , sent Diego Simeone to the stand over his violent call for an Arsenal player to be handed a yellow card for fouling his player.
In spite of their numerical inferiority, Atletico Madrid’s players displayed the defensive capabilities that they are well known for , as they defended stoutly to prevent Arsenal from scoring any goal in the first half of the match.
Atletico had two goal-scoring opportunities in the first half of the match, and the clearest was the one that came their way in the thirty third minute of the game when their defensive mid-fielder,Thomas, raced with the ball from a few yards away from the half-way mark, weaving , waltzing and bulldozing his way into Arsenal’s eighteen yard box where he was finally able to feed a pass to Griezmann whose final shot was saved by David Ospina.
On the resumption of the second half, Arsenal took the game to their opponent who were then forced to defend in numbers against the barrage of attacking football taking place in their own half of the pitch.
Arsenal’s efforts eventually paid off when Alexandre Lacazette , who was a perpetual thorn in the opponent’s flesh, headed into the net a well taken cross by Jack Wilshere from the left flank.
After the opening goal, the Gunners continued to press for a second goal , but their opponents defended everything threw and they managed to keep the score line respectable.
The Emirate went dead with silence when Atletico Madrid equalized in the eighty first minute of the game. A ball was lofted towards Antoine Griezmann inside Arsenal’s eighteen yard box, Laurent Koscienyl who got to the ball first failed to clear it out of danger , allowing Griezmann who was racing behind him to pounce on the ball ; he struck it towards the open goalpost but the legs of Ospina deflected it nearer to his goal post, and Griezmann quickly raced to the ball and skillfully toed it over the sliding figure of Shkodran Mustafi straight into the roof of net.
Arsenal tried in vain to score a second goal in the remaining minutes of the match , but Atletico’s well-drilled defensive wall made it impossible for the Gunner to secure the winning goal.