Sporting 2-2 Arsenal: Europa League tie in the balance as Mikel Arteta’s rotated side take draw to Emirates

William Saliba headed the Gunners in front in the first-half  (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
William Saliba headed the Gunners in front in the first-half (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal’s Europa League last-16 tie remains in the balance after a 2-2 draw with Sporting in Portugal.

Returning to European action for the first time in four months and looking to replicate their Premier League form, the Gunners made a positive start and took the lead as William Saliba powered home a header from a corner.

Sporting showed their own set-piece strengths though to level the match up before the break, Arsenal certainly not covering themselves in glory though as Goncalo Inacio was left free to equaliser with a header inside the six-yard box.

Arsenal made a strong start to the second-half and should have taken the lead when Oleksandr Zinchenko played Gabriel Martinelli in on goal, but the Brazilian’s dinked effort was kept out. Five minutes later, Sporting were in front.

Pedro Goncalves got an effort away for the hosts, Matt Turner kept it out but could only parry the ball into the six-yard box and Paulinho was ready to gratefully tap home from a few yards out.

Martinelli went close once more, this time with a superb solo run that took him past the entire Sporting defence and then the goalkeeper, but Jeremiah St. Juste got back well to deny the Arsenal forward what would have been a goal to remember.

The equaliser certainly did not fall into that category, for all Arsenal were grateful it came. Granit Xhaka tried to play the pass through to Martinelli, but the ball instead cannoned off Hidemasa Morita and found a way into the bottom corner, leaving the Gunners the happier of the two sides heading into next week’s second leg in north London.