Slavia Prague has achieved a dramatic equalization of overtime to leave Arsenal’s Europa League ambitions hanging in the balance.
Substitute Nicolas Pepe thought he had given the Gunners a slim quarter-final advantage in the first leg when he broke a deadlock in the 86th minute.
But in the dead moments of the game, Thomas Holes went home from close range, giving Slavia from Prague a precious away goal.
The rematch in Prague takes place next Thursday (20:00 Central European Time), and artillery boss Mikel Arteta, although his side admitted so late, still believes he will make it to the semifinals.
“The way of thinking must be such that you go there and score goals and win the game, because we have to score a goal if we want to pass,” said the Spaniard.
“I totally believe we can go there and win the game, if not, I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
Gunners have to do everything
Arteta said he was in “shock” after the hip tame surrender to Liverpool of 3: 0 last weekend, a performance that brought harsh criticism from both fans and experts.
He responded by making six changes – three of which were forced due to injury – to his starting line-up, with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being the most significant victim.
“Well, I can’t talk to everyone individually every week,” Arteta said when asked how Aubameyang reacted to the crash.
“We try to be transparent and communicate with the players as transparently as possible, so that they understand the role of the game they have. When he came in, he showed the right attitude.”
Aubameyang, who has 13 goals in the league and cup for his club this season, but none since March 6, lowered his figure as he watched Willian score from outside the free-kick before Alexandre Lacazette rushed in, just to hit the bar. .
Aubameyang was finally sent off in the 78th minute and executed a shot as his pass allowed the club’s £ 72 million signator Pepe to race into the penalty area and achieve a harmonious finish next to keeper Ondrej Kolar.
But Arsenal failed to see the match, and the striking header of Holes means that the Arteta team must do everything against the Czech champion 2019-20 in a week.
Arsenal faced a big Prague test
Given that the Gunners are 10th in the Premier League table, 10 points from the top four, winning the Europa League represents their most realistic chance of securing a spot in the Champions League next season.
They have not surpassed the Champions League stage from 2016-17, and next week they face a big test if they want to make it to the semi-finals of the European Second League club knockout competition.
While this was an improvement over their previous outing, Arsenal have rarely looked convincing against opponents who have beaten Leicester City and Rangers this season.
Rob Holding headed the ball over the goal when the game was goalless, but at the other end Bernd Leno saved a blocked shot by Jan Boril, while Lukas Provod hit the post before Hole reached the rebound in the penalty area and headed to the side level in the 93rd minute.
‘It’s a nightmare for Arsenal – analysis’
Former Arsenal and England player Karen Carney:
“It’s a nightmare for Arsenal, absolutely devastating. Arsenal had a lot of chances, Slavia Prague should have been dead and buried.”
Former Arsenal and England defender Martin Keown:
“It was about Arsenal and the way they played and sitting down, I thought they chose the wrong tactics. It’s a disastrous result, but it’s not the end.”
Arsenal defensive headache – statistics
- Arsenal have not maintained a clear goal in any of their past 14 games in all competitions, which is their longest streak since December 2019.
- Having lost the first three away games against the English teams without scoring a goal, Slavia Prague have lost only one of the last four such games in the European competition (W1 D2), each time finding a net.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s assist in opening Arsenal was his 100th goal in all competitions for Arsenal (84 goals, 16 assists).
- Thomas Holes from Slavia Prague scored his first goal in the big European competition, which was his 14th appearance.
- Arsenal remain undefeated in their nine European matches with Czech opponents (W7 D2) – however, this was the first time they failed to win a home game against a team from the Czech Republic.
- Nicolas Pepe scored (four) and was involved in (seven) more Europa League goals for Arsenal than any other player this season.
Arsenal on Sunday (19:00 BST) have a visit to the lower club of the Premier League Sheffield United in negotiations before the rematch next Thursday in Prague (20:00).
- 17Cédric Soares
- 18ParteyReplaced byElnenyu 78 ‘minutes
- 7SakaReplaced byPepeu 78 ‘minutes
- 32Smith RoweReplaced byCeballosu 88 ‘minutes
- 12WillianReplaced byMartinelliu 73 ‘minutes
- 9LacazetteReplaced byAubameyangu 78 ‘minutes
- 49Lopez Salguero
- 6WinterBooked at 47min
- 18He fought
- 7StanciuReplaced byMasopustu 84 ‘minutes
- 25HromadaReplaced bySevciku 45 ‘minutes
- 19DorleyReplaced byLingru 69 ‘minutes
- 12SimaReplaced byKuchtau 69 ‘minutes
- 9Oladeji OlayinkaReplaced byTraoreu 85 ‘minutes
The match ends, Arsenal 1, Slavia Prague 1.
End of the second half, Arsenal 1, Slavia Prague 1.
Goal! Arsenal 1, Slavia Prague 1. Tomás Holes (Slavia Prague) heads from the left side of the penalty area into the upper left corner after the corner.
Corner, Slavia Prague. Courtesy of Cédric Soares.
Try saved. Lukáš Provod (Slavia Prague) shot from the left side from the right side of the penalty area was saved in the lower right corner.
Alexander Bah (Slavia Prague) failed to score. Assisted by Jan Boril with a cross.
Dani Ceballos (Arsenal) takes the free-kick on the right wing.
Offense Jan Boril (Slavia Prague).
Substitution, Arsenal. Dani Ceballos replaces Emile Smith Rowe.
Goal! Arsenal 1, Slavia Prague 0. Nicolas Pépé (Arsenal) shot from the left foot from the center of the penalty area to the lower left corner. Assisted by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitution, Slavia Prague. Ibrahim Benjanim Traore replaced Peter Oladeji Olayinka due to injury.
Foul by Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal).
Alexander Bah (Slavia Prague) takes the free-kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Slavia Prague. Lukas Masopust replaced Nicolae Claudiu Stanciu.
Corner, Arsenal. Submitted by Petr Sevcik.
Attempt blocked. Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal) has a shot blocked. Assisted by Nicolas Pépé.
Corner, Arsenal. Courtesy of Tomás Holes.
Corner, Arsenal. Courtesy of Jan Boril.
Trying to miss Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) shot from the left side shot from the right, missed six penalty areas from the left side. He assisted Emile Smith Rowe with a cross.
Substitution, Arsenal. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang replaced Alexandre Lacazette.