A late Tomas Holes goal denied Arsenal a slender lead at the halfway point of their Europa League quarter-final tie with Slavia Prague on Thursday night, with Mikel Arteta’s side forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
A turgid first half never really looked like sparking into life, with Bukayo Saka’s left-footed effort that drifted harmlessly wide of the post the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock.
The Gunners came within inches of taking the lead early in the second half as Willian whipped a free-kick over the wall and clattered the outside of the post, before Alexandre Lacazette did likewise when it almost looked easier to score having been afforded the freedom of the Slavia half.
With 15 minutes remaining Areta called for the cavalry with Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gabriel Martinelli all being introduced, and the move very nearly paid off as Aubameyang’s stole a yard in the Slavia box before firing wide of the target.
Just as the game looked like crawling towards a dull draw, Pepe turned on the afterburners to beat his man before producing a lovely chip over Ondrej Kolar to hand Arsenal the lead.
However, there was a late sting in the tail as Slavia swung a corner into the middle and Holes stole in at the back post to head home to make the score 1-1.
That’s the match highlights done with, now to those all important Arsenal player ratings…
Bernd Leno (GK) – 6/10 – Given very little to do until stoppage time when he produced a smart front-post save. Little he could do about the Slavia equaliser.
Hector Bellerin (RB) – 6/10 – Found himself in a good position on the Arsenal right on a number of occasions but just couldn’t find any real quality.
Rob Holding (CB) – 5/10 – A couple of loose balls into midfield and just looked a little uncomfortable whenever the visitors surged forward.
Gabriel (CB) – 7/10 – Was dominant in the air and helped repel just about everything Slavia threw into the box.
Cedric Soares (LB) – 5/10 – The former Southampton man is literally just plugging a gap. Looked shaky and his shocking clearance in the second half very nearly led to a Slavia goal.
Thomas Partey (CM) – 4/10 – Absolutely anonymous. The only time he did anything of note was when he decided to play dangerous passes across his own box.
Granit Xhaka (CM) – 8/10 – Carried the fight for the home side (we know!). Didn’t stop hassling the Slavia backline all evening and gave his everything for the team (we know!).
Emile Smith Rowe (AM) – 6/10 – Restored to the starting XI in place of Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard. Was busy throughout but just couldn’t find a bit of magic to unlock the visitors’ backline before being withdrawn.
Willian (RW) – 5/10 – Struck the frame of the goal with a smart free-kick early in the second half. Did very little else and was withdrawn with 20 minutes to play.
Alexandre Lacazette (ST) – 5/10 – Looked odds on to open the scoring with the full Slavia half to himself, yet somehow managed to hit the post.
Bukayo Saka (LW) – 6/10 – Preferred to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the left. The liveliest of the front three but spurned a couple of decent opportunities early on.
Gabriel Martinelli (RW) – 6/10
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – 7/10 – Injected some life into the game and grabbed himself an assist shortly after arriving.
Mohamed Elneny (CM) – 6/10
Nicolas Pepe (LW) – 7/10 – Nice burst of pace and deft finish to hand Arsenal the lead.
Daniel Ceballos (CM) – N/A