top of page
  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Emirates Stadium

Arsenal's gruelling night ends in jubilation - with a return to a once familiar European pasture the reward

Champions League Rd 16 second leg

Arsenal (1) 1 Trossard 41

FC Porto (0) 0

After Extra Time. Aggregate: 1-1: Arsenal win 4-2 on pens

It wasn't pretty. At times it was downright excruciating. But somehow they got there. Arsenal: Champions League quarter-finalists. Almost like old times.

It needed a Leandro Trossard goal to cancel a first leg deficit to take the game to extra-time, then it needed penalties to finally see off an obdurate Porto side.

Four perfect kicks from 12 yards from Martin Odegaard, Kai Havertz, Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice did the trick, with Wendell and Galeno having their shots saved by David Raya.

That final decisive save raised the roof. Now Friday's draw for the last eight cannot come soon enough. Whoever Arsenal get, it will be a mouth-watering prospect.

Just like old times indeed. Except maybe better. Last time they reached the round of 16 stage during the fag-end of the Arsene Wenger era, they looked really out of their depth against the best sides.

The memory of two 5-1 drubbings at the hands of Bayern Munich (home and away) still haunts.

In fact you have to go back to 2010 to find the last time the Gunners reached the last eight - a tie against Barcelona set up after a 5-0 home win against...Porto, of course. There's symmetry to be found in football at times, as well an unpredictable beauty.

Porto's visit was the first knock-out tie on home soil in the Champions League since that 10-2 aggregate capitulation to Bayern in 2017. And the last seven times Arsenal were involved in the last 16 stage, they were eliminated - usually by Bayern or Barcelona.

Monaco and Milan also added to the feeling in those days that making the knock-outs was futile. No wonder the match day programme steered clear of any waxy nostalgic articles.

Getting re-acquainted with the demands of this competition has necessitated getting used once more to the sort of time-wasting and play-acting that is not normally a feature of life domestically.

Porto, marshalled by the old warhorse Pepe at the back were niggling street-wise disruptors to Arsenal's callow optimists from start to finish. Ref Clement Turpin of France was too weak to stand up to it, adding only one minute of injury time at the end of a first half full of stoppages.

After the break, he halted play when Evanilson attempted an overhead kick and made out he was going to need surgery to recover. Cynicism of this kind needs patience and discipline to overcome.

The Gunners had to bide their time. They offered little up front until Odegaard threaded a beautiful pass through to Trossard just before the break and the Belgian slid the ball neatly across keeper Diogo Costa into the far corner.

Odegaard scored what looked to be a perfectly good goal, chipping in after Pepe and Havertz had tussled for the ball without any apparent foul or offside. Mikel Arteta collected a booking for his protests from the ineffectual official. Porto's boss Sergio Conceicao was also later booked on a night full of bad blood and plenty of iffy tackles from both teams.

Jesus came on and almost pinched a late winner, as did Odegaard, drilling just wide after Saka - kept in check very well by the uncompromising Wendell - had seen his shot parried into open space in front of goal.

They needed to keep their nerve and believe they could still get the job done. That they did.

After such a long, tense and bruising night, it is perhaps just as well that there is a free weekend coming up to recover before that trip to Man City over Easter.

A game against Chelsea would have been far from an ideal follow up. The Blues, of course, have an FA Cup engagement keeping them from fulfilling the fixture that was due to have taken place in four days' time.

It means the Gunners can kick back and heal those bruises - while dreaming of the tasty tie that is still to come.

Gunners: (4-3-3) Raya - White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior - Odegaard, Rice, Jorginho (Jesus 82) - Saka, Havertz, Trossard

Porto: (4-2-3-1) Diogo Costa - Joao Mario (Sanchez 86), Pepe, Otavio, Wendell - Nico Gonzalez, Varela (Grujic 90+£) - Francisco Conceicao, Pepe, Galeno - Evanilson (Taremi 88)


Join our mailing list

bottom of page