Injury to Danny Welbeck takes shine off Arsenal qualification
Arsenal 0 Sporting Lisbon 0
The Gunners are through to the last 32 in the Europa League, despite dropping their first group points.
But the evening was spoilt by a bad injury to Danny Welbeck in the first half, which saw the striker stretchered off after 25 minutes.
Welbeck appeared to badly twist his right ankle as he landed awkwardly after getting in on the end of a cross, and he was in obvious distress, rolling on the turf in agony.
Team-mates watched on anxiously as medics surrounded the luckless forward, whose career has been blighted by injury in recent seasons.
The rousing send-off he received from the stands was a sign that Gunners fans are very mindful of the ill-fortune dogging the ex-Man United man. His contract is up at the end of the season and future appearances at Emirates Stadium must be in doubt if the injury proves long-term.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Welbeck’s replacement, came close to giving the Gunners the lead at the start of the second half, clipping the crossbar after a being found in the box by Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
But Arsenal struggled to find the fluidity of style which has characterised many of their matches in their unbeaten run (which now stands at 15 matches) and chances were sparse.
With nine changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Liverpool at the weekend, hat was perhaps hardly surprising.
Home fans struggled to get into the game too – numbed perhaps by the vibrancy of the incessantly- chanting Lisbon fans, who turned out in great numbers, and enjoyed their night. Their side look side to qualify for the next stages too.
Sporting, led by another former Man United player in Nani, were happy to largely sit back and wait for opportunities to break. But they seldom got forward in numbers and were content to sit in.
They played out the last few minutes with 10 men when Jeremy Mathieu was red carded as Aubameyang tore into the penalty area. The resulting free-kick on the edge of the area was blazed over by Aubameyang himself – a fitting epitaph to a disappointing match.
Line-up: Cech – Jenkinson (Kolasinac 60), Holding, Sokratis, Lichtsteiner (Maitland-Niles 74) – Guendouzi, Ramsey – Smith Rowe, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi – Welbeck (Aubameyang 30). Subs not used: Martinez, Torreira, Mustafi, Nketiah