Another Youssef El-Arabi goal was not enough to overturn a first-leg deficit as Arsenal reached the Europa League quarter-finals with a 3-2 aggregate win over Olympiakos.
El-Arabi, whose extra-time winner in last season’s competition dumped Arsenal out of the tournament, scored via a deflection six minutes after half-time to give the Greek side a 1-0 win on the night at the Emirates Stadium.
El-Arabi’s finishing was also off when he fired straight at Bernd Leno before he found his shooting boots for the only goal of the night, to give Olympiakos realistic hope they could knock Arsenal out for a second straight year.
But once Ousseynou Ba was sent off for two bookings within 10 seconds of one another, for fouling Gabriel Martinelli and then throwing the ball at him, their glimmer of hope faded, and Mikel Arteta’s side survived a scare to reach the last eight.
Arsenal limp into last eight
Arsenal named a strong team to see out a comfortable lead in the second leg of their last-16 tie and did just that before half-time, allowing Olympiakos plenty of the ball and remaining compact without it.
They would have made life even easier for themselves had Nicolas Pepe’s shot not deflected off Jose Sa, who had come a long way to meet him, and just wide of the near post. A far easier chance for Aubameyang moments later was met with a less forgivable finish as the Gabon striker fired powerfully over from Dani Ceballos’ through-ball when well-placed.
Power was the aim for El-Arabi from Olympiakos’ one real chance of the half, when a Sa goal kick caught the Arsenal defence flat-footed and only the forward’s poor finishing, shooting straight at Leno, let them off the hook.
Arsenal made five changes from the team that beat Tottenham, including a recall for captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
That was the warning shot, but the second gave no reprieve. Ceballos lost the ball well up-field six minutes after the break but with Arsenal committing numbers forward, Olympiakos sprung on the break. Suddenly El-Arabi was found inside the box, and when Gabriel’s deflection on his effort wrong-footed Leno, the Greek side had hope.
Their play since the break had troubled the hosts and continued to do so, although with 13 minutes to go Martin Odegaard, on as a substitute, should have taken the pressure off Arsenal but after two goals in as many games, he fired well over when well-placed.
Shortly before Ba’s inexplicable red card, which left him in tears in the Arsenal tunnel knowing he had all-but ended his side’s hopes of progressing, Aubameyang missed another glorious opportunity to seal victory, chipping Sa when clean through but missing the far post.
Late on the restored Arsenal forward was twice more off target, but by now it mattered little. The Gunners had done enough in Athens to progress, and were not punished for a poor performance on home soil.
What the manager said…
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta: “People take for granted that you play against any opponent and you’re going to be through because of the name of the club they represent. It’s not like that. Every team in Europe is really difficult to beat.
“What we have to do, the way we are setup, the organisation we have and the way we want to play, we have to be much more efficient, much more simple, much more cohesive as a team.
“Without that structure you are exposed when you lose the ball in really dangerous areas without any opposition.
- Arsenal have made it to the quarter-finals for the fourth time in their last five Europa League/UEFA Cup campaigns (knocked out at Last 32 stage last season), after failing to reach that stage in each of their first five attempts.
- Olympiakos have failed to reach the quarter-finals in any of their 23 Europa League/ UEFA Cup campaigns.
- Arsenal have now conceded in each of their last 11 matches across all competitions – their longest run without a clean sheet since a stretch of 14 matches without a shutout between October – December 2019.
- Arsenal have lost three consecutive home matches against an opponent in European competition for the first time ever.
- Arsenal games have produced seven red cards this season in all competitions (5 for, 2 against), the joint-most of any Premier League side (also seven for Aston Villa).
- Olympiakos forward Youssef El-Arabi became just the fourth player to score in three consecutive matches against Arsenal in major European competition, after Lionel Messi (March 2016), Arjen Robben and Robert Lewandowski (both March 2017).
Arsenal’s short trip to West Ham is live on Sky Sports Premier League this weekend, as part of Super Sunday from 2.30pm; Kick-off at 3pm.
The Europa League quarter-final and semi-final draw will be held on Friday at 1pm. Follow live coverage across Sky Sports’ digital platforms.