Arsenal produce one of their worst displays under Mikel Arteta in Porto loss

Arsenal's Martin Odegaard and Declan Rice, right, react after Porto's Galeno scored the opening goal during a Champions League round of 16 soccer match between FC Porto and Arsenal at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
Arsenal arrived in Porto on the crest of a wave – they left buried under it - AP Photo/Luis Vieira

This was not the occasion for Arsenal to produce one of their worst performances in four years under Mikel Arteta.

On their long-awaited return to the knock-out stages of the Champions League they fell to a deserved defeat – and it could have been worse – against a struggling Porto who had come into this tie expecting to limit the damage rather than inflict it.

They were led by Pepe, who, 41 in five days, is the oldest player ever to appear at this stage of this competition. Having featured in 120 Champions League games the defender also had more appearances than the Arsenal starting XI combined.

Those were supposed to be statistics in favour of Arteta’s free-flowing, free-scoring, confident young side. Instead they turned into an indictment of their callow inexperience, lack of nous and apparent inability to cope with the stakes.

Pepe barely had to break sweat as Porto collected an unexpected clean sheet. For the first time in two years, Arsenal failed to register a single effort on target. The closest they came was a header over from Gabriel deep into injury-time.

“We lacked threat. We lacked aggression, especially with the ball in the final third. We can do better,” Arteta lamented.

The Gabriel header came seconds before Porto scored. Arsenal were again guilty as they surrendered possession on no fewer than three occasions – much to Arteta’s anger - and then Declan Rice failed to close down Galeno who, instead, use him as a shield to bend a right-foot shot from 25 yards that left David Raya grasping at air.

It was a moment of brilliant redemption for the Brazilian who had committed an appalling, glaring miss in the first-half when he shot against the post from six yards and then shot wide when he collected the rebound even closer to goal.

The crowd even celebrated - before realising the ball had not actually gone in the net – with Galeno left holding his header for many, many seconds in utter disbelief.

Two-nil and Arsenal would have been in real danger. Even with this score-line they can have no complaints. They were sluggish, disjointed and lacked any kind of threat. It was a bad night for their attackers and creative players while their defence, which has been so strong of late, appeared strangely vulnerable.

It was also a bad night for Arteta. Tactically he struggled against Porto’s press while he only used one substitute, a defensive midfielder Jorginho, even though there was no attacking impetus.

Having not reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for 14 years, it was not the time for Arsenal to produce a stinker. But they did. Back then they overcame Porto, having also lost the first leg in Portugal, so the omens are good.

Even in defeat here they will still believe they can go through because they surely cannot play as badly as this at the Emirates. Or can they? Because it almost appeared the occasion was too much for them.

They may cling on to another statistic: each of the last five teams to beat Porto in the knock-out stages of the Champions League have reached the final. But the possibility of Arsenal being the sixth appears fanciful on this form.

The tone was set inside the first 90 seconds with Rice allowing a loose pass to go beyond him and then lunging to foul Galeno. He was booked. After that, time after time, passes went astray with both William Saliba and Ben White failing to control the ball and letting it run out of play.

Porto had obviously done their homework. They know the threat Arsenal pose from set-pieces and, with gamesmanship, bought themselves free-kicks of their own under challenges. It did not help Arsenal’s cause though that both Rice and Bukayo Saka took an eternity to deliver the ball.

Mention of Saka highlighted another who disappointed. As did Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard while, on his return to the stadium where he scored the winning goal for Chelsea in the 2021 Champions League Final, Kai Havertz was anonymous bar a header. He was substituted.

“You need to have much more aggression, you need to break lines, to play forward and generate much more threat,” Arteta said. “In the second-half there were much better things and we generated a lot of situations, without really creating much from it.”
There was more urgency after the break but it was a stretch to claim Arsenal “generated a lot of situations”. They just did not while Arteta will have to ponder whether he can persist with Jakub Kiwior in the return leg as he was clearly targeted at left-back.

Having failed in their last seven attempts to go through this round Arsenal will believe they can do it – and they should – but this was a wake-up call for their ambition. As Arteta put it: “If you cannot win, you don’t lose.”

Porto vs Arsenal: As it happened

10:25 PM GMT

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta speaking to TNT Sports

10:24 PM GMT

Former Arsenal forward Theo Walcott on BBC Radio 5 Live

“We were speaking about the squad depth that Arsenal have before the game, but now looking back, does Mikel Arteta trust the players outside of that starting XI? He only made one substitution tonight.

“It could have been a game where he decided to shut up shop even more and brought off the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, who were not as effective as they could be tonight.

“As a coach would you feel that you could just shut up shop and take the 0-0 back home to the Emirates?”

10:21 PM GMT

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown on TNT Sports

“The handbrake was on a little too much, was that inexperience? They need to hold that hurt now. Porto contained Arsenal.”

10:19 PM GMT

Saka anonymous?

10:18 PM GMT

Round-up of the first legs

That is all of the first legs completed so here is how the eight games look halfway through the ties:

Copenhagen 1-3 Manchester City

RB Leipzig 0-1 Real Madrid

Lazio 1-0 Bayern Munich

PSG 2-0 Real Sociedad

Inter Milan 1-0 Atletico Madrid

PSV 1-1 Borussia Dortmund

Porto 1-0 Arsenal

Napoli 1-1 Barcelona

10:05 PM GMT

Late drama

10:01 PM GMT


09:59 PM GMT

Losing run

09:57 PM GMT

Full time in Naples

It has finished in Italy and Napoli have drawn 1-1 with Barcelona.

09:55 PM GMT

Full time

The full-time whistle is blown and Porto take a 1-0 lead to north London for the second leg, which is on March 12.

09:54 PM GMT

GOAL! Galeno scores stoppage time screamer

With just under 30 seconds to go Porto have the lead and what a goal it is. Galeno, who missed the sitter earlier, curls one in from outside the box. A stunning finish which will give Porto a one-goal advantage going into the second leg.

09:51 PM GMT

90+2 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Rice sends it into a great area and Gabriel heads over. That was a big chance for Arsenal to take the lead late on. The Arsenal centre-half should have done so much better from there.

09:50 PM GMT

90+1 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

It is Arsenal this time who have a free-kick in a dangerous position.

09:50 PM GMT

90 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

That is a poor, heavy delivery. Galeno sends it back in but it is easy for Raya.

There are four additional minutes.

09:49 PM GMT

89 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Porto have a free-kick in a good area after White fouled Jaime. We are about to hit the 90-minute mark and this represents a good chance for the home side.

Porto are taking off Wendell, who looks like he has been struggling, and Eustáquio comes on for him.

09:46 PM GMT

87 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Another Arsenal corner, whipped in by Saka. Porto once again are able to clear their lines.

09:45 PM GMT

85 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Porto are making a double change; Martinez on for Evanilson and Borges on for Conceicao. West Ham fans, do you remember Toni Martinez?

09:43 PM GMT

83 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Porto work it into a good position, Conceicao’s cross from the right deflects up into the air and Raya comes out of his goal to catch it.

09:40 PM GMT

82 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

There have been just 10 attempts between the two sides combined with 10 minutes left. One shot on target for Porto, zero for Arsenal.

09:39 PM GMT

80 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Arsenal’s corner count is nearly into double figures and they have another one, which Saka will takes. There is a foul on Wendell and Porto have a free-kick.

Sergio Conceicao is making a change as Ivan Jaime is coming on for Gonzalez, who has been booked.

09:34 PM GMT

75 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Arsenal have another corner on the other side this time. Before it is taken Jorginho is replacing Trossard.

After plenty of messing around in the box, the corner finally comes in but it is an easy catch for Costa.

Napoli have equalised against Barcelona in Naples with 15 minutes to go as Osimhen has the equaliser.

09:31 PM GMT

72 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Arsenal have a corner on the left as Jorginho is preparing to come on. Rice’s delivery to the far post is just about punched away by Diogo Costa.

09:30 PM GMT

69 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Nothing is coming off for the Arsenal forwards here. Martinelli smashed a cross behind for goal kick, Saka ballooned one out for a throw-in and Trossard has barely touched the ball.

09:26 PM GMT

67 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Mario plays a dangerous ball in from the right which is well intercepted by Saliba.

Moments later Pepê forces his way into the Arsenal box on the right and finds Evanilson, whose shot is deflected behind for a corner which is cleared away by Arsenal.

09:23 PM GMT

64 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Play has been stopped as Porto manager Sergio Conceicao’s son, Francisco, is down receiving treatment. He is now back on his feet and looks fine to continue.

FC Porto's Francisco Conceicao down hurt
Porto manager Sergio Conceicao's son, Francisco (pictured), was down but was fine to continue - Pedro Nunes/Reuters

09:21 PM GMT

62 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

It is a yellow-card frenzy at the moment as Gonzalez is the next man to feel the wrath of the referee for a cynical foul.

09:20 PM GMT

61 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Havertz is the third Arsenal player booked tonight.

09:19 PM GMT

59 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Saka sends in a cross from the right-hand edge of the Porto box but it is too heavy and none of his teammates can get on the end of it.

Meanwhile in Naples there has been a goal as Robert Lewandowski has given Barcelona the lead.

09:17 PM GMT

57 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Kiwior is booked for fouling Conceicao near the edge of the Arsenal box on the right. This is a free-kick for Porto in a great area. It is wasted though as Wendell’s cross has way too much on it and goes behind for a goal-kick.

Jakub Kiwior being shown the yellow card
Jakub Kiwior (right) into the book - Pedro Nunes/Reuters

09:16 PM GMT

56 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Rice plays a corner to the far post, where Trossard is in acres of space. His volley goes flying over the bar and that is a chance wasted by Arsenal.

Leandro Trossard frustrated at his missed effort
Leandro Trossard (pictured) blazed over a volley from inside the Porto box - David Ramos/Getty Images

09:14 PM GMT

55 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Porto work it into a good position in the Arsenal box but Pepê, not the former Real Madrid man, tries to be too cute and the chance is gone.

09:11 PM GMT

53 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Odegaard’s delivery is poor and is easily headed away.

09:11 PM GMT

52 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Conceicao is the first Porto player booked tonight as he hauls down Martinelli down the left-hand touchline. Arsenal will have a chance to whip the ball into the box through Odegaard.

09:05 PM GMT

47 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

There is another Champions League last-16 match tonight taking place at the moment over in Naples. It is currently 0-0 between Napoli and Barcelona.

09:04 PM GMT

Second half

We are back under way in Porto.

08:56 PM GMT


Arsenal had 71% possession in that first half but failed to register a shot on target.

08:54 PM GMT

Galeno chance

This was the big moment from the first half. How on earth Galeno did not put Porto ahead I do not know.

08:51 PM GMT

Still going at 40

08:47 PM GMT

Half time

The final act of the first half is a Saka corner, which is a carbon copy of the last one as Havertz meets it at the far post and heads wide.

The whistle is then blown from the goal-kick and it is all square at the break.

08:46 PM GMT

45 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

There will be one minute of added time at the end of this first half.

08:43 PM GMT

43 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

The corner is played to the far post and is headed wide by Havertz. In fact it looked like it hit his arm.

08:42 PM GMT

41 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

White’s cross from the right deflects off Wendell and behind for a corner. Saka’s inswinger is headed away but Arsenal have another corner shortly after.

08:41 PM GMT

40 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Evanilson shoots powerfully from the right-hand side of the Arsenal box but it is straight at Raya and it is an easy save for the Arsenal goalkeeper

08:38 PM GMT

38 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Gonzalez shoots from range but his rising shot goes over the bar.

08:37 PM GMT

37 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Arsenal have had plenty of the ball but have not done much with it yet. No shots on target for either team.

08:35 PM GMT

35 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Saka’s deflected cross from the byline clips the top of the bar but the ball had already gone out so Arsenal will have a corner.

Saka whips in an inswinging corner and it is headed just wide by Saliba. He should have hit the target there from just a few yards out.

08:33 PM GMT

32 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Trossard has an effort from just inside the Porto box but his shot misses the target by a country mile. That would have been more apt on a rugby pitch than a football one.

08:27 PM GMT

27 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Saka’s inswinging corner is caught by Costa in the Porto goal.

08:26 PM GMT

26 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Odegaard whips in an inswinger from the right and his cross is headed behind for a corner.

08:25 PM GMT

25 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Martinelli sends in a cross from the left into the centre of the box but there is no Arsenal player to meet it. Arsenal have now got a free-kick as Wendell fouls Saka on the right, not far away from the Porto box.

08:23 PM GMT

22 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

How has he missed? Porto should be ahead. Conceicao, son of the Porto manager Sergio, gets down to the byline. His cross deflects up into the air and falls to Galeno, six yards out. His first effort cannons back off the far post, it comes straight back to him and his follow-up misses the near post. How have Porto not taken the lead?

Everyone inside this ground thought that was a goal. Even the stadium DJ was convinced - they pushed the button on the blaring music before realising the ball had somehow gone wide.

08:20 PM GMT

19 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Porto drive towards the Arsenal box through Conceicao and he finds Mario running down the right, into the Arsenal penalty area. His cross is blocked and ends up in the arms of Raya in the Arsenal goal.

08:18 PM GMT

17 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Rice whips in and Diogo Costa is out of his goal to punch the ball away. There was also a foul by Arsenal during that free-kick.

08:16 PM GMT

15 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Pepe is penalised for a foul on Odegaard and Arsenal will have a free-kick in a good position on the left.

08:10 PM GMT

10 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Ben White’s position has changed so dramatically in the last few weeks. He’s now playing the “Zinchenko role”, tucking into midfield, as Jakub Kiwior plays as a more conventional left-sided defender. For much of the opening nine minutes here, White has been in midfield alongside Declan Rice.

08:07 PM GMT

7 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Arsenal are dominating possession in the early stages but no chances yet for either side.

08:02 PM GMT

2 minutes: Porto 0 Arsenal 0

Just 60 seconds into the game and Rice is booked for a late challenge on Galeno.

Declan Rice fouls Galeno
Declan Rice (right) into the book very early - Michael Regan/Getty Images

08:00 PM GMT


We are under way in Porto.

07:56 PM GMT

Kick-off fast approaching

Both sides have emerged from the tunnel and we are just moments away from kick-off in Porto.

07:53 PM GMT

Reminder of the team news

Porto: Costa, Mario, Pepe, Otavio, Wendell, Varela, Gonzalez, Conceicao, Pepe, Galeno, Evanilson.

Subs: Ramos, Cardoso, Eustaquio, Grujic, Sanchez, Jaime, Namaso, Franco, Baro, Martinez, Borges, Pedro.

Arsenal: Raya, Kiwior, Saliba, Gabriel, White, Havertz, Rice, Odegaard, Martinelli, Trossard, Saka.

Subs: Ramsdale, Hein, Cedric, Sweet, Heaven, Elneny, Vieira, Jorginho, Smith Rowe, Nelson, Nwaneri, Nketiah.

07:51 PM GMT

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta speaking to TNT Sports

07:49 PM GMT

Arsenal getting ready

07:49 PM GMT

Live from Porto

Arsenal have thoroughly enjoyed their Champions League campaign so far, largely because opposition teams have been so open against them. In the Premier League, Mikel Arteta’s side usually have to break down deep-lying defences. In Europe, though, their opponents have given them space to run into. Arsenal’s forwards have loved it, and no player in the competition has been involved in more goals than Bukayo Saka (three goals, four assists).

07:47 PM GMT

Visitors out to warm up

07:43 PM GMT

Home side getting ready

07:37 PM GMT

Inside the away dressing room

07:34 PM GMT

Live from Porto

The Estádio do Dragão is a beautiful stadium and it’s a lovely night for football: cool and still. The atmosphere will be crackling at kick-off, but for now we are making do with the disco beats and thumping bass that are so popular at European grounds.

07:29 PM GMT

Live from Porto

Arsenal have not played in the Champions League knockout rounds since 2017, and they have not reached the quarter-finals of this competition since 2010. To be blunt, that recent record is embarrassing for a club of their stature.

On paper, they should be too strong for Porto tonight. The Portuguese side are currently third in their league, seven points off the top, and Arsenal will expect to create chances.

07:25 PM GMT

Full team news

Porto make one enforced change to the side which beat Estrela 2-0 last weekend. Left-back Zaidu Sanusi suffered an ACL injury in that match and Wendell replaces him. 40-year-old former Real Madrid defender Pepe starts days before he turns 41. Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi misses out due to injury. Former Liverpool midfielder Marko Grujic is on the bench for Porto.

Porto: Costa, Mario, Pepe, Otavio, Wendell, Varela, Gonzalez, Conceicao, Pepe, Galeno, Evanilson.

Subs: Ramos, Cardoso, Eustaquio, Grujic, Sanchez, Jaime, Namaso, Franco, Baro, Martinez, Borges, Pedro.

Arsenal name an unchanged side from the 5-0 win against Burnley on the weekend. Former Porto man Fabio Vieira returns and is on the bench after an injury lay-off. Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Takehiro Tomiyasu remain out.

Arsenal: Raya, Kiwior, Saliba, Gabriel, White, Havertz, Rice, Odegaard, Martinelli, Trossard, Saka.

Subs: Ramsdale, Hein, Cedric, Sweet, Heaven, Elneny, Vieira, Jorginho, Smith Rowe, Nelson, Nwaneri, Nketiah.

07:14 PM GMT

Return home

Fabio Vieira is back on familiar turf tonight; he came through Porto’s academy and then graduated into the first team before making the move to Arsenal in the summer of 2022. He is on the bench for Arsenal against his former club.

07:07 PM GMT

Arsenal team news

07:03 PM GMT

Porto team news

06:55 PM GMT

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06:45 PM GMT

Match preview

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is backing his players to deliver in the Champions League knockout stages, despite their lack of experience. Arsenal travel to Porto tonight in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie and Arteta is excited for the challenge ahead.

“We had qualified when we were last here so this is different. The crowd are so close here and I have a huge respect for them. When I saw what they did in the group stage, I thought ‘wow’. We have to be prepared mentally. We have to be ready to suffer as it will be a tight, tight game. Normally, my gut doesn’t lie to me.

“We don’t have the experience, that’s the reality - 95 per cent of these players haven’t played this competition, they haven’t played the last 16.

“I haven’t [managed at this stage]. But they have so much energy and enthusiasm to play well and that’s our desire and how we’re going to play the game.

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta speaking to the media ahead of Arsenal's game against Porto
Arsenal travel to Porto tonight in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie - Stuart MacFarlane/Getty Images

“It’s great. We have earned the right to be here. It’s been seven years since we’ve been at the top table for these kind of matches and 14 years since we were able to go to the next stage.

“That’s the challenge. We know what is ahead of us, but we are very excited to face it and to go for it with full belief, that’s for sure.”

After six years out of the Champions League, Arsenal topped Group B, picking up 13 points and finishing four points clear of second place PSV. They are looking to make the quarter-finals for the first since the 2009-10 season.

Porto finished second in Group H, behind Barcelona. They currently sit third in the Primera Liga, seven points off the top. They could be without Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi, who is struggling with a thigh injury.

Arsenal have not won in three trips to Porto in the Champions League, drawing once and losing twice.

Team news to follow shortly.