EUROPA LEAGUE: Sporting Lisbon 0-1 Arsenal - Danny Welbeck seals 11th win on the bounce in a scrappy affair
PUBLISHED: 19:51 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 19:51 25 October 2018
Sporting Lisbon hosted Unai Emery's Arsenal in the Europa League in Lisbon at the Estádio José Alvalade on Thursday. Read on for Layth Yousif's MATCH REPORT from Portugal
Arsenal beat Sporting Lisbon 1-0 in their Europa League clash in Portugal on Thursday through a second half goal by Danny Welbeck at the Estadio Jose Alvalade on Thursday evening.
The victory made it 11 wins on the bounce for Unai Emery’s men as they won their third game out of three in Group E to go three points clear of their Portuguese rivals.
Despite the match being scrappy for large parts none of the travelling 3,000 Arsenal fans, nor the head coach or his players will care too much as they notched another triumph to build genuine momentum ahead of a tricky set of fixtures in November.
Granit Xhaka continued at left-back after Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac were ruled out with hamstring injuries.
Petr Cech and Ainsley Maitland-Niles returned to full training this week but were ruled short of fitness for the game.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started after scoring as a substitute in the wins over Fulham and Leicester.
Long-term absentees Laurent Koscielny and Dinos Mavropanos remained unavailable for selection.
The Gunners took on a Sporting side who have emerged victorious in four of their last six games including two of out of two in the Europa League.
They sat in fifth place in the Portuguese Primeira Liga Table, four points off leaders Benfica – even if the 18 times national champions have had a difficult few months.
Following a group of Ultras attacking the squad at their training centre at the end of last season 11 players chose not to renew their contracts over the summer.
Key departures included Gelson Martins, William Carvalho, Bruno Fernandes, Rui Patricio and Bas Dost as they entered the new season with a new squad.
Sinisia Mihajlovic, the former Lazio midfielder and AC Milan boss, assumed the role of head coach after previous incumbent Jorge Jesus left - but the former Serbian international lasted nine days in the job.
He was replaced by Jose Peseiro, who returned to the verde e brancos - green and whites - 13 years on from his first spell at the helm.
The atmosphere at kick-off was loud if not raucous with plenty of empty seats visible in this tightly-packed stadium, even if the deliberately colourful seats were designed to mask gaps ala Brisbane’s Gabba.
A shapeless start gave way to sporadic foraging down the right flank as Stephan Lictsteiner combined with captain for the evening Aaron Ramsey as they tried in vein to work an opening. Unfortunately the former Swiss leader’s execution did not match his intent and his crosses into the box were ultimately fruitless.
Former Manchester United star Nani was equally as infective in his attempts to swing the ball into the box, as the match degenerated into a series of energetic plays that failed to penetrate either backlines.
Ten minutes before the interval ear-splitting whistles rang around this atmospheric 50,000 capacity stadium as Sokratis tangled with Sporting’s No10 Fredy Montero in the Arsenal half as the Ultras screamed for a sending-off.
Referee Damir Skomina immediately dismissed demands, correctly waving away all appeals – which had the unfortunate effect of ramping up the decibel levels even more as the teams went in goalless after a scrappy opening 45 minutes.
Aubameyang showed his jet-heeled pace early in the second half to outpace the backline before firing straight at keeper Raman Ribeiro who blocked the powerful shot comfortably.
Guendouzi bundled Radoslav Petrovic out of the way in the box before Welbeck had a shot blocked as Arsenal upped a gear.
Lucas Torreira replaced Mohamed Elneny midway through the second half as both sides increased their attacking intent.
Arsenal went 1-0 ahead through a goal out of nothing after former Liverpool man Sebastian Coates allowed Welbeck through on goal. The United man drove on to finish clinically past Ribeiro to put the Gunners 1-0 up on 78 minutes – much to the delight of the vociferous travelling fans.
Next stop south London and Crystal Palace.