Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Arsenal knocked out of Europa League as Olympiacos march on

Posted on 27 February 2020 by Tusdiq Din

Arsenal 1 Olympiacos 2 (2-2 on aggregate)

Olympiacos win on away goals

Arsenal were knocked out of the Europa League in the most dramatic of fashions in Thursday evening’s second leg clash against Olympiacos. Holding a slender one goal advantage from the first leg in Athens, the Greek champions cancelled the Gunner’s advantage on 53 minutes when Pape Abou Cisse headed in to bring the tie level. Although Arsenal created chances to draw level on the night in 90 minutes, a solid blue line of Olympiacos defenders ensured that extra time was needed. Then came the drama.

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El Arabi with Olympiacos’ dramatic extra time winner

In the 114th minute, Mesut Ozil and substitute Gabriel Martinelli combined to tee up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with the Gunners’ captain scoring a spectacular overhead kick to draw Arsenal level on the night and a 2-1 aggregate lead. In the dying seconds of the game however Youssef El Arabi prodded in past Bernd Leno as Arsenal failed to clear another corner to give Olympiacos the lead again. In the dying seconds, Aubameyang hooked his shot from wide from six yards out when it seemed easier to score. Greek scenes of jubilation as the majority of the lower Clock End erupted as Olympiacos claimed another win at the Emirates.

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Aubameyang’s spectacular overhead kick wasn’t enough for Arsenal

Arsenal were left to rue their chances on a night when Olympiacos set up to frustrate the Gunners. With twelve minutes on the clock, Nicolas Pepe robbed Kostas Tsimikas, and although he couldn’t set up an initial effort, his follow up shot caught a defender when a cross was the better option for the waiting Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Midway through the first half and again it was Pepe on the right, but this time he powered through the middle. Ousseynou Ba clipped his heels in the D as he threatened. Up stepped Pepe to take the resultant free kick which flew just over the bar.

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Cisse netted Olympiacos’ opener at Emirates

When Ozil lost possession high up, Olympiacos threatened on their right. The move looked promising until the back tracking Bukayo Saka combined with Dani Ceballos to retrieve the ball. Ceballos has enjoyed that deeper, more defence minded role, with Ozil ahead. The advantage being that his defence have a confident ball player to play out from.

When Mohamed Camara broke on the left, he angled in on goal, however he could only offer a tame near post effort which didn’t trouble the exposed Bernd Leno. Six minutes before the break, Arsenal thought they had added to their lead. Ceballos found Granit Xhaka who switched the ball to Saka on the left. His cross found Lacazette for the tap in, however there was at least one Arsenal player in an offside position.

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No way through for Pepe on a frustrating night for Arsenal

Olympiacos took the lead on 53 minutes. Cisse headed in from Mathieu Valbuena’s corner, with El Arabi’s slight flick on, as David Luiz switched off to give away a free header for the night’s opener. The visitors almost doubled their lead four minutes later. Tsimikas took aim but Leno palmed the ball away to keep the Gunners level on aggregate.

Arsenal had plenty of possession, but Olympiacos sat deep to contain. Xhaka struck wide, and although Pepe was seeing a lot of the ball again on the right, but couldn’t add substance to his skill. When he finally got a shot away from Xhaka’s searching ball, Jose Sa got down to palm the ball away. Lacazette was enduring a frustrating night in the middle, unable to penetrate the sea of blue shirted defenders.

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Olympiacos celebrate their Europa League last 16 progression

When he finally got away after good work from Ozil and Pepe, the France striker’s wild shot didn’t trouble Sa. On came Lucas Torreira for Ceballos but even he couldn’t find a way past Sa and it was to be extra time. Olympiacos substitute Bruno Gaspar blasted over and when Torriera lost possession, the ball was worked out wide to substitute Girgos Masouras whose shot clipped the bar with Leno beaten.

Arsenal were moments from progression to the last 16 with Aubameyang’s strike, but the Greek side grabbed the vital away goal through El Arabi and it is they who progress to the Europa League last 16.