United Eke Out Rare Away Win On Emotional Day In Belgrade

Manchester United’s English defender Harry Maguire (L) and Manchester United’s English midfielder Jesse Lingard gesture at the final whistle during the UEFA Europa league group L football match between Partizan Belgrade and Manchester United at the Partizan stadium in Belgrade on October 24, 2019. ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP

 

Manchester United made an emotional return to Belgrade on Thursday and, after a ceremony to remember the ‘Busby Babes’, eked out a first away win since March, 1-0, over Partizan. 

Anthony Martial scored the only goal of the Europa League Group L game with a penalty kick after 43 minutes, but the hosts had eight strikes on target to just three by United.

The game marked the return to the ground where Matt Busby’s famous team of talented youngsters played their last game, a European Cup quarter-final against Red Star in February 1958.

The plane crashed in Munich on the way home and seven United players were among the 23 who died.

United had only played in Belgrade once since then, when they lost a European Cup semi-final to Partizan in 1966.

On Thursday afternoon, United held a commemoration ceremony where former players Bryan Robson and Mickey Thomas laid a wreath on the centre circle at the Partizan Stadium and vice-chairman Ed Woodward gave a speech.

“As soon as the draw happened, our attention turned to wanting to remember those who lost their lives in 1958,” he said.

“This was the last place, on this very ground, against Red Star Belgrade, when they played as a team together.”

“So for us as a club, there is a game tonight but for us the trip is also important for remembering those who lost their lives.”

For the match, United made eight changes from the team that drew at home with Liverpool on Sunday. Teenagers Brandon Williams and James Garner came into the team.

Williams, playing wing back, made a decisive contribution in the 43rd minute when he burst into the Partizan box and drew wild tackles from two home defenders. Martial rolled the penalty into the corner of the goal.

United spent much of the match defending.

Partizan’s Nigerian centre forward Umar Sadiq was dangerous throughout, hitting the post just before Martial’s goal and fizzing another shot just wide. Guinean Seydoubah Soumah and Japanese Takumah Asano both forced tricky saves from Sergio Romero.

“We expected a hostile environment but we got the win,” said United defender Phil Jones. “I thought Garner and Williams were outstanding.”

United can ensure a spot in the knockout rounds if the beat Partizan at Old Trafford on matchday four.

 ‘Our aim is to enjoy’ 

In a game in Bratislava, played in an unusual atmosphere after Slovan side-stepped a stadium ban for racism by giving 21,000 tickets to children, Wolves fought back from a goal down to win 2-1.

Andraz Sporar gave the home team an 11th minute lead in the Group K tie.

Romain Saiss levelled in the 58th minute with a low, long-range shot that bobbled through goalie Dominik Greif’s legs

Six minutes later, Vernon DeMarco gave Raul Jimenez a shove in front of goal and the Wolves striker scored the winner from the resulting penalty.

Diogo Jota collected one yellow card after 86 minutes and another one minute later, but Wolves held on to win away for the fifth time in Europe this season.

“We managed to take what we wanted from the game,” Nuno Espirito Santo, the Wolves manager, told BT, the British broadcaster. “Our aim is to enjoy this competition.”

A penalty also proved pivotal in a Group J game in Rome.

Nicolo Zaniolo gave Roma the lead over Borussia Moenchengladbach but Chris Smalling conceded a penalty in the fifth minute of added time and Lars Strindl, a second-half substitute, calmly converted.

Roma stayed top of the group while ‘Gladbach are last.

Porto were held 1-1 at home by Steven Gerrard’s Rangers after both teams scored with a long-range blast. Luis Diez gave Porto the lead after 36 minutes. Alfredo Morelos replied eight minutes later.

The two teams have four points, two behind group leaders Young Boys who won 2-0 at home to Feyenoord.

AFP

United, Arsenal Raise English Hopes In Europa League

Arsenal Manager, Unai Emery and Manchester United Coach Ole Solskjaer

 

Manchester United and last year’s finalists Arsenal headline an English trio that also features Europa League newcomers Wolves while record five-time champions Sevilla figure to be among the primary contenders as the group stage begins Thursday. 

Scottish rivals Celtic and Rangers face testing paths to the knockout rounds as bitter foes Roma and Lazio bid to end Italy’s two-decade wait for the title.

Porto, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord are the other former European Cup winners in a competition that will welcome the eight third-place finishers from the Champions League groups for the knockout phase.

United, Europa League winners in 2017, will host Astana in Group L as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side face opponents from Kazakhstan for the first time in club history.

They will expected to progress with relative ease from a group that also includes Partizan Belgrade and former finalists AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands.

Unai Emery’s Arsenal return to the competition after last season’s 4-1 defeat by Chelsea in the final in Baku saw the Blues pip them to Champions League qualification.

The Gunners visit Eintracht Frankfurt to kick off their campaign, with 10-time Belgian champions Standard Liege and Portugal’s Vitoria Guimaraes also in Group F.

Wolves, in their first European campaign since 1980, will meet Portuguese club Braga in their opening game at Molineux.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s team came through three ties just to reach the group stage. They beat Torino 5-3 on aggregate in the play-offs.

“I think any team in the Europa League are a good team who we will respect going up against them. We will give everything, try to play and try to beat any team,” said Wolves winger Adama Traore.

“Any player wants to play in Europe, but the Europa League is exciting, it is a new thing for us and it’s a good thing.”

Six newcomers 

Scottish champions Celtic travel to French Cup holders Rennes in Group E, with Italian Cup holders Lazio and CFR Cluj, the Romanian side to whom they lost in Champions League qualifying, completing a tricky section.

Steven Gerrard’s Rangers are at home to Jaap Stam’s Feyenoord on Thursday and will do well to navigate a group with Porto and Swiss champions Young Boys.

Roma will take on Istanbul Basaksehir in their first game while Moenchengladbach host Austria’s Wolfsberg — not to be confused with German outfit Wolfsburg.

Austria boast two representatives with LASK Linz among the six debutants — alongside Espanyol, Wolves, Wolfsberg, Olexandriya and Ferencvaros — in the tournament.

UEFA will distribute 560 million euros to clubs competing in this season’s Europa League, just over a quarter of the 1.95 billion euros allocated to those participating in the Champions League.

Each of the 48 clubs in the group stage will receive a base of 2.92 million euros, with lifting the trophy worth just under 18 million euros in basic prize money.

Teams will net 570,000 euros per win and 190,000 for a draw with additional revenue coming through television markets and money depending on each team’s UEFA ranking.

By comparison, the Champions League winners stand to take home around 75 million euros before considerable sums are tacked based on the market pool and coefficient ranking.

The final will be held in the Polish city of Gdansk on May 27, 2020.

AFP

Arsenal Drawn With Eintracht In Europa League, Man Utd Head To Kazakhstan

Former English International Ashley Cole holds the slip of Arsenal during the UEFA Europa League football group stage draw ceremony in Monaco on August 30, 2019.
Valery HACHE / AFP

 

Last season’s runners-up Arsenal were placed in the same section as Eintracht Frankfurt in the draw for the Europa League group stage in Monaco on Friday, while Manchester United face a long trip to Kazakhstan.

Unai Emery’s Arsenal side lost to Chelsea in the final in Baku after Eintracht had been eliminated by the same side on penalties in the last four.

Ten-time Belgian champions Standard Liege and Portugal’s Vitoria Guimaraes are also in Group F.

United, Europa League winners in 2017, will face Astana of Kazakhstan as well as Partizan Belgrade and former finalists AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands in Group L.

Wolverhampton Wanderers, the third English team in the draw, will take on Turkish side Besiktas in Group K.

In their first European campaign since 1980, Wolves have already come through three ties just to reach the group stage, including defeating Torino 5-3 on aggregate in the play-offs.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s team will also take on Braga of Portugal and Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia.

While all three Premier League sides will be fancied to progress to the last 32, the draw was far less kind on the two Scottish representatives.

Scottish champions Celtic meet Italian Cup holders Lazio and French Cup holders Rennes in Group E as well as CFR Cluj, the Romanian side to whom they lost in Champions League qualifying.

Celtic were in the same group as Rennes in the 2011-12 Europa League and took four points against the French club.

Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers will take on former European Cup winners Porto and Feyenoord as well as Swiss champions Young Boys in Group G.

Rangers reached the group stage for the second season running after edging out Legia Warsaw in the play-off round.

The opening group games will be played on September 19. This season’s final will be held in the Polish city of Gdansk on May 27, 2020.

Wolves Set Up Torino Clash In Europa League Playoffs

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Belgian midfielder Leander Dendoncker (2nd L) shoots to score but the goal is overturned after a VAR (Video Assistant Referee) review during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on August 11, 2019. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Wolves eased past Armenia’s Pyunik 4-0 and 8-0 on aggregate to reach the Europa League play-offs on Thursday where they will face Torino of Italy.

Diogo Jota, on as a substitute, scored a spectacular late volley with debutant Pedro Neto, Morgan Gibbs-White and Ruben Vinagre also on the scoresheet as Nuno Espirito Santo’s Premier League side cruised through at Molineux.

Wolves, playing in Europe for the first time since 1980, face a Torino side who drew 1-1 at Belarusian side Shakhtyor 1-1 to make it past the third qualifying round 6-1 on aggregate.

Nikolai Yanush salvaged some pride for the hosts levelling on the night from the spot in stoppage time after Simone Zaza had given the Italians the lead 10 minutes from time, but Torino were already well out of sight.

Torino, who finished seventh in Serie A last season, are only in the competition after AC Milan accepted in June a voluntary ban from European football for the coming season over breaches of financial fair play rules.

Feyenoord, former European champions and two-time winners of the Europa League’s predecessor UEFA Cup, also had easy passage to the playoffs after a 1-1 draw with Dinamo Tbilisi that saw them through 5-1 on aggregate.

Rangers saw off FC Midtjylland 3-1 at Ibrox for a 7-3 aggregate with Alfredo Morelos scoring twice either side of a Sheyi Ojo strike.

Fellow Scots Aberdeen, however, lost 2-0 to Rijeka of Croatia and went out 4-0 on aggregate.

AFP

Chelsea, Arsenal Ready For Europa League Battle

Chelsea To Face Arsenal In Europa League/ AFP

 

Chelsea face Arsenal in the Europa League final in the unfamiliar setting of Azerbaijan on Wednesday in what is likely to be Chelsea star Eden Hazard’s last match for the club before a rumoured move to Real Madrid.

The buildup to the all-English clash has been marred by the controversy surrounding UEFA’s choice of venue, with a London derby exported almost 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometres) to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, by the Caspian Sea.

The match is the first course in a banquet of European finals dominated by England, with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur contesting the Champions League showpiece in Madrid on Saturday.

However, there will not be much of an English atmosphere at the Baku Olympic Stadium when the match kicks off at 11:00pm (1900 GMT), with reportedly only around 6,000 tickets sold by the clubs for a ground which holds almost 70,000.

READ ALSO: EU To Demand Clarifications From Italy Over Budge

The distances and costs involved and the difficulty in getting to Baku have prevented more fans from travelling.

On the field, Arsenal are handicapped by the absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He decided not to travel because of fears over his safety due to an ongoing political dispute between Azerbaijan and his home country, Armenia.

“It is not in my hands. They have their reason to play here and I must respect this decision,” Arsenal coach Unai Emery said on Tuesday.

“Yes, I prefer to play with our supporters here. I’d prefer it if a lot of supporters from us and from Chelsea could come here from London, but it’s difficult.”

Chelsea’s preparations have been fraught, with rumours swirling that not only is Hazard leaving for Madrid but that coach Maurizio Sarri could go to coach-less Juventus.

The tension bubbled to the surface in a training session open to the media on Tuesday when Sarri stormed off the pitch at the Olympic Stadium with TV cameras capturing the moment when the Italian angrily tossed away his baseball cap as he headed for the tunnel shortly after David Luiz and Gonzalo Higuain had clashed.

Sarri had earlier refused the Juventus vacancy, saying: “I have a contract with Chelsea for two years.

“So, first of all I will speak with Chelsea but this is not the moment.”

He said winning the final would turn a “very good season” into a “wonderful” one. Some critics would argue however that a third-place Premier League finish 26 points adrift of champions Manchester City and a chance of winning Europe’s second-tier trophy is unsatisfactory for a club with Russian-backed Chelsea’s budget.

Emery has seemed far more serene although the stakes are certainly high for the Gunners. After finishing fifth in the Premier League, two points behind Chelsea in third and one point behind Tottenham, Arsenal have to win to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

“For a club like Arsenal we have to be in the Champions League. It’s an amazing and important game because we want to give us, the fans and the club the Champions League back,” said Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka.

Arsenal have not been in a European final since 2006 and have not won a continental trophy since lifting the Cup Winners’ Cup 25 years ago.

In Emery, though, they have a coach who won this competition three years running with Sevilla.

“All teams’ first objective is to play to win a title — I think that is the first objective, and then there is also the fact that it helps you to achieve the Champions League,” said Emery, the former PSG coach.

– Night of farewells? –
Emery is still to win a major trophy, but he has already steered the Blues to a return to the Champions League and also took them to the League Cup final, where they lost on penalties to Manchester City.

Whatever happens to Hazard, it will definitely be the last game for Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech, who will retire afterwards at the age of 37. A Chelsea great who crossed London in 2015, Cech has been tipped for a return to Stamford Bridge in some capacity.

“I can speak about Petr Cech a lot, but above all he’s a great man, a great professional,” Emery said. “I want to do something important, with him playing or not playing.”

Bernd Leno is the other option in goal, while Chelsea are sweating on the fitness of key midfielder N’Golo Kante.

“Kante has a very little problem with his knee. The problem is the timing, but we are trying,” said Sarri.

Arsenal Edge Towards Europa League Final With 3-1 Victory Over Valencia

Arsenal Edge Towards Europa League Final With 3-1 Victory Over Valencia
Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette (R) has his shot blocked by Valencia’s Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista (C) during the clash at the Emirates Stadium in London on May 2, 2019.
Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Arsenal took a huge step towards the Europa League final as a double from Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s late strike earned a 3-1 semi-final, first leg win over Valencia on Thursday.

The Spanish side’s bright start was rewarded with Mouctar Diakhaby’s away goal, but Lacazette quickly turned the game around with two goals in eight minutes before Aubameyang’s late intervention gave the Gunners a two-goal advantage to defend at the Mestalla on May 9.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery is a Europa League specialist having won the competition three times when in charge at Sevilla.

And the Spaniard’s decision to start Lacazette and Aubameyang together against his former side was richly rewarded despite a terrible start from the hosts.

Arsenal are desperate not just for silverware in Emery’s first season but the guarantee of Champions League qualification for next season that winning the Europa League would bring.

A run of three straight Premier League defeats has left Emery’s men needing more favours from Chelsea or Tottenham to stand any chance of a top-four Premier League finish.

The Gunners had conceded three times in all three of those defeats to Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester and the same defensive deficiencies cost them again early on.

Valencia had already missed a glorious chance to take the lead when Ezequiel Garay somehow turned Rodrigo’s driven cross over the bar from point-blank range.

However, the hosts did not learn their lesson and from another set-piece, Valencia took the lead when Diakhaby got the final touch at the back post to force home Rodrigo’s header across goal.

Emery has been reticent to start Lacazette and Aubameyang together up front, but the game turned on one moment of magic from Arsenal’s two prolific strikers.

Lacazette played in Aubameyang and the Gabon international left his marker and Valencia goalkeeper Neto on the ground before squaring for his strike partner to roll into an empty net.

Seven minutes later, Arsenal led as terrible defending allowed Lacazette a free header from Granit Xhaka’s cross and a weak hand from Neto could not prevent the ball crossing the line.

The chances continued to come for Arsenal’s front two as Aubameyang volleyed into the ground and over just before the break.

Lacazette then had two glorious opportunities to complete his hat-trick as he firstly failed to connect with an inch-perfect Aubameyang cross before Neto made a brilliant save at his near post to keep the Spanish side in the tie.

At the other end Petr Cech also had to make a smart stop as he raced from his goal to deny substitute Kevin Gameiro.

The veteran stopper has announced he will retire at the end of the season.

And Cech’s final game could well be against his former club Chelsea in next month’s final as the Blues secured a 1-1 draw away at Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of the other semi-final.

Arsenal still have work to do with their terrible away record this season likely to give Valencia plenty of encouragement.

However, they moved much closer to booking their place in Baku when Aubameyang turned home at the back post in the final minute.

AFP

Underdogs Frankfurt Hold Chelsea 1-1 In Europa League Semis

Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud (R) and Frankfurt’s Martin Hinteregger vie for the ball during the match.
Photo: Uwe Anspach / dpa / AFP

 

A first-half strike from Pedro gave Chelsea a slim advantage in their Europa League semi-final tie as they were held to a 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday.

Pedro levelled the scores in the first leg clash after Luka Jovic had given Frankfurt the lead in the first half.

Despite dominating the second half, Chelsea were fortunate to survive a handful of late chances, and the tie remains finely poised ahead of the return leg at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, May 9.

 

UPDATED: Arsenal Beat Napoli, Qualify For Europa League Semis

Arsenal Beat Napoli, Qualify For Europa League Semis
Arsenal’s French striker Alexandre Lacazette (C) celebrates with Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) and French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi after opening the scoring during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg football match against Napoli on April 18, 2019 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. Carlo Hermann / AFP

 

Alexandre Lacazette scored the only goal as Arsenal dispatched Napoli 1-0 on Thursday to advance to the Europa League semi-finals 3-0 on aggregate.

Lacazette’s stunning 36th-minute free-kick put the English club through to a final four meeting with Spanish side Valencia.

The exit of Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli means no Italian clubs are left in European competition this season.

READ ALSOChelsea Defeat Slavia Prague To Reach Europa League Semis

Unai Emery’s side were never troubled by the Italians despite the heated atmosphere in the Stadio San Paolo, even after losing departing midfielder Aaron Ramsey to a hamstring injury after half an hour.

Napoli had turned up the pressure early with a chance to break through after 17 minutes with Kalidou Koulibaly going on the counter-attack, racing up the pitch to cross to Jose Callejon but Petr Cech closed down the Spaniard’s weak effort.

Ramsey limped off after 33 minutes with Henrikh Mkhitaryan coming on for the Welsh international.

The Armenian promptly set up Lacazette who was awarded a free-kick after being brought down by Piotr Zielinski.

Lacazette whipped the ball in from 25 metres past a motionless Alex Meret in the Napoli goal.

Emery now faces a reunion with former club Valencia, 5-1 aggregate winners over fellow Spaniards Villarreal, as he targets a fourth Europa League title.

The final will be in Baku on May 29.

AFP

UPDATED: Chelsea Defeat Slavia Prague To Reach Europa League Semis

Chelsea Defeat Slavia Prague To Reach Europa League Semis
Chelsea’s Spanish midfielder Pedro (2R) celebrates after he scores the team’s first goal during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final second leg football match against Slavia Prague at Stamford Bridge stadium in London on April 18, 2019. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Pedro Rodriguez starred as Chelsea withstood a spirited Slavia Prague fightback in a wild 4-3 victory to qualify for the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday, while Arsenal knocked out Napoli after an assured display in Italy.

Leading 1-0 from last week’s first leg in the Czech capital, Chelsea appeared to be cruising towards the last four after an early goal blitz at Stamford Bridge.

Pedro struck the opener on five minutes before an unfortunate Simon Deli turned into his own net and Olivier Giroud added a third with barely quarter of an hour gone in London.

READ ALSOArsenal Beat Napoli, Qualify For Europa League Semis

Tomas Soucek pulled one back for Slavia on 26 minutes, but Spain forward Pedro replied immediately to restore the Blues’ three-goal lead.

Maurizio Sarri’s side were made to sweat though as two sublime, quick-fire goals by Petr Sevcik just after half-time gave Slavia hope of an incredible comeback with 35 minutes still to play.

Chelsea eventually saw off the threat to progress 5-3 on aggregate despite an unconvincing second-half display.

The 2013 Europa League champions will meet Eintracht Frankfurt in the last four after the Germans eliminated Benfica on away goals.

Eintracht lost 4-2 in Portugal a week ago, but goals by Filip Kostic and former Bayern Munich midfielder Sebastian Rode sent the German Cup holders through at the Commerzbank Arena.

Kostic turned home a rebound on 37 minutes after Mijat Gacinovic’s curling attempt cannoned back off the upright.

Rode, on loan from Borussia Dortmund, hit the decisive goal on 67 minutes as he picked out the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

In Italy, Alexandre Lacazette drilled in a terrific free-kick on 36 minutes at the Stadio San Paolo as the Gunners completed a 3-0 aggregate victory over Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli.

Petr Cech denied Jose Callejon with his legs following a rapid Napoli break on the quarter-hour as the Italians sought to overturn a two-goal deficit from the first leg.

But Lacazette’s 30-yard drive all but put the tie beyond Napoli, shortly after Aaron Ramsey hobbled off with a hamstring injury — potentially his final appearance for Arsenal ahead of a move to Juventus in July.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery will come up against one of his former clubs Valencia, the 2004 UEFA Cup winners, for a spot in the final.

Valencia eased through with a 5-1 aggregate win over Villarreal in an all-Spanish affair.

Toni Lato and Dani Parejo grabbed the goals in a 2-0 second-leg victory for Valencia coach Marcelino against his former club.

This year’s final will be held in Baku on May 29.

AFP

We Can Win United, Emery Says After Rennes Defeat

Arsenal’s Spanish coach Unai Emery attends the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg football match between Stade Rennais FC and Arsenal FC at the Roazhon Park stadium in Rennes, northwestern France on March 7, 2019. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Arsenal manager Unai Emery is confident his team can bounce back from their Europa League setback in Rennes when they face a euphoric Manchester United side this weekend.

The Gunners played most of Thursday’s game with 10 men after Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off late in the first half as they threw away an early lead to lose 3-1 in France in their Europa League last 16, first leg.

Alex Iwobi had put them in front, but Rennes took advantage of their extra man to come back and claim a potentially vital two-goal cushion.

READ ALSO: Juventus Prepare For Atletico Battle With Udinese Warm Up

The result means they should have their work cut out if they are to progress to the quarter-finals, with the second leg against the Ligue 1 club scheduled for next Thursday.

“The first 40 minutes I think we controlled it, we scored, and we didn’t concede many chances to them,” said Emery, who accepted his team did not play well after the sending-off.

Benjamin Bourigeaud and Ismaila Sarr scored for Rennes either side of a Nacho Monreal own goal.

“We need to change our performance and I have confidence that we can with our players and with our supporters helping us to give us a big atmosphere.”

Before that game, Arsenal entertain United on Sunday in a huge game between two sides battling for a top-four place in the Premier League.

“We are finding fresh players and different energy for each match, and for Sunday I think it’s going to be the same,” said Emery, whose side are fifth in the Premier League table, one point behind United in fourth.

“Every player worked a lot and we are going to look forward to the next match, but I know and I am positive for Sunday, that with fresh players with energy, with quality, that we have the possibility to put in a big performance against Manchester United and win against them.”

United will head into the game fresh from their stunning 3-1 win away to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday that took them through to the Champions League quarter-finals on away goals.

That result was achieved with a depleted side, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team will also take confidence from the fact they won 3-1 at Arsenal in the FA Cup in January.

“They are in a very good moment but we are together in the table and we played against them one month ago in the FA Cup — we lost 3-1 but I remember we did very good things, we had chances,” said Emery.

“We know Sunday is a tough match, an amazing match for everybody, we will be at home with our supporters, and we need a very big performance from each player.”

Arsenal will be able to call on Alexandre Lacazette for that game — the French striker is suspended for the two legs against Rennes.

AFP

Rennes Fight Back To Stun 10-Man Arsenal In Europa League

Rennes’ Algerian defender Mehdi Zeffane (L) shoots to score their second goal during the UEFA Europa League round of 16 first leg football match between Stade Rennais FC and Arsenal FC at the Roazhon Park stadium in Rennes, northwestern France on March 7, 2019. LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Arsenal face a major battle if they are to reach the Europa League quarter-finals after a 3-1 defeat away to Rennes in France on Thursday, despite Alex Iwobi putting the Gunners ahead early on.

Iwobi’s goal gave the Premier League side the perfect start in this last 16, first leg at a raucous Roazhon Park, but the match hinged on the sending-off of Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos four minutes before half-time.

Benjamin Bourigeaud equalised for the French club moments later, and their second-half pressure paid off as a Nacho Monreal own goal put Rennes ahead before Ismaila Sarr’s late header gave them a two-goal cushion in the tie.

READ ALSO: ‘It’s A Disgrace’, Neymar Says After PSG Crash

Unai Emery’s side must now turn the tie around in the second leg at the Emirates Stadium next Thursday if they are to progress any further in a competition which represents their only hope of silverware this season as well as offering a potential route into next season’s Champions League.

The Gunners recovered from a first-leg deficit to beat BATE Borisov in the last round, but Rennes are a step up in quality and are revelling in what is already their best ever European run. This result is also a shot in the arm for French clubs after Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League humiliation against Manchester United on Wednesday.

Rennes had eliminated Real Betis in the last round and there was a superb atmosphere in a stadium packed to its capacity of almost 30,000.

Arsenal were missing French striker Alexandre Lacazette, who is suspended for both legs of this tie after being sent off against BATE in Belarus.

They still got off to a perfect start, taking the lead inside four minutes when Iwobi’s cross-cum-shot from the left edge of the box curled low into the far corner.

Rennes slowly grew into the game, though, with Hatem Ben Arfa — who was sidelined last season by Emery when both were at Paris Saint-Germain — increasingly influential.

Petr Cech, who spent two years at Rennes before joining Chelsea in 2004, saved well from a Ben Arfa free-kick in the 34th minute.

As half-time approached, Ben Arfa played in Sarr, who was hauled back by Sokratis just outside the area. The Greek defender had already been booked, so a second caution equalled a red card.

Bourigeaud struck the wall from the resulting free-kick, but the ball came back to him and he sent a stunning half-volley arrowing into the far corner.

Rennes had been unbeaten in all 12 previous home games since the appointment of Julien Stephan as coach in December, and they made the most of their man advantage in the second half.

Cech made several interventions before being beaten again in the 65th minute, as Mehdi Zeffane’s cross from the right deflected off Monreal and looped into the net.

Their potentially crucial third goal arrived with two minutes left as James Lea-Siliki whipped in a cross from the left and Senegal star Sarr — a menace on the right flank all evening — arrived to head in at the far post.

AFP

Arsenal, Chelsea Draw Rennes, Dynamo Kiev In Europa League Last 16 Draw

The results of the draw for the Europa League round of sixteen is displayed on a screen, on February 22, 2019, at the headquarters of UEFA European football organization in Bern.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Arsenal will face French side Rennes in the last 16 of the Europa League, while Chelsea were paired with Dynamo Kiev in Friday’s draw.

Both Premier League clubs will be at home in the first leg on Thursday, March 7, with the return matches scheduled for March 14.

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Among the other ties, former European Cup finalists Eintracht Frankfurt were drawn against Inter Milan.

AFP