Arsenal were forced to settle for a draw against Sporting Lisbon Benfica in the Europa League Round of 32 first leg on Thursday night.
The Gunners had chances aplenty, mainly through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Mikel Arteta‘s men would leave disappointed to only pick up the draw and one away goal following a series of misses from the Gabon international.
Arsenal went behind when Pizzi scored from the spot following an Emile Smith Rowe handball, but did manage to draw level thanks to Bukayo Saka goal from close range.
The draw means the tie remains very finely poised ahead of the second leg in Athens next Thursday with a spot in the Round of 16 at stake.
You can see how we covered the draw in Rome on our dedicated Arsenal page here, but below we round up how some of the national media saw the action.
“Arsenal were left ruing a host of squandered chances as they battled to a disappointing draw with Benfica at the Stadio Olimpico.
“Despite dominating for much of the match the Gunners fell behind when Emile Smith Rowe’s unfortunate handball gave Pizzi the chance to score from the penalty spot.
“Arsenal were quickly back level though as they went down the other end almost immediately to equalise as Bukayo Saka turned in Cedric’s cross.
“But they couldn’t add to their tally as, after scoring a treble at the weekend, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang instead racked up a hat-trick of misses to leave the tie tightly poised.”
“Arsenal surrendered their 100 per cent Europa League record in Rome but head to Athens next week convinced they are still on course for a place in the last 16.
“Bukayo Saka’s 57th minute equaliser leaves this unique tie with no home advantage perfectly poised.
“So Uefa have settled for the Italian and Greek capitals as neutral venues for this battle of these two fallen European giants.
“The last time Arsenal played in the Stadio Olimpico they won a thrilling penalty shoot-out on their way to the 2009 Champions League semi-finals.
“And prior to that Thierry Henry scored a memorable hat-trick to silence 70,000 stunned Roma fans back in 2002.
“But those glory days of competing for club football’s biggest prize are long gone for the Gunners and now they find themselves scrapping it out in Europe’s secondary competition for a fourth successive year.
“Boss Mikel Arteta is still haunted by the memory of last season’s exit at the same stage of this competition, when they conceded in the last minute of extra-time to go out on away goals to Olympiacos.
“So he was taking no chances this time, fielding his strongest possible team despite Sunday’s impending Premier League clash with runaway leaders Manchester City.
“It meant the same line-up which had beaten Leeds last weekend, the first time since September 2018 that Arsenal had named an unchanged side.
“That was tough to take for the kids who had served Arsenal so well in the group stage this season, winning all six of their games while scoring 20 goals in the process.
“But with so much riding on progression in this competition, Arteta could not afford any room for sentiment.”
“Neither Arsenal nor Benfica felt quite at home in Rome, but at least Mikel Arteta saw his side’s output count double. They deserved to leave with some kind of advantage and it was secured by a close-range away goal from Bukayo Saka, who quickly equalised after Pizzi had scored a penalty for Benfica early in the second half.
“There will be the nagging concern it should have been greater, though, and would have been if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had not endured an unusually wasteful night.
By signing up for our Arsenal newsletter, you will receive a once-daily email, focused around goings-on at Emirates Stadium.
You won’t miss a thing when it comes to the Gunners – you’ll get all you need to know directly into your inbox.
We’ll also send out special newsletters with any big breaking news too.
And with the January transfer window now open there’s plenty of content to get your teeth into.
How do you sign up?
It’s easy and only takes seconds.
Simply type your email address into the box at the top of this article – or any article on the Arsenal section of football.london in fact – labelled ‘Get the biggest daily stories by email’ and click ‘Subscribe’.
And that’s it, you’re all set.
If you decide later that you no longer wish to receive the emails, simply follow the unsubscribe link in one of the newsletters – but we don’t think you’ll want to.
For more details, click here.
“The captain had ignited his season with a hat-trick against Leeds at the weekend and, while that kind of contribution was long overdue, his travails have centred on a lack of chances rather than his ability to convert them.
“Here, though, he had three and they included a first-half sitter that should have offered a platform to put functional opponents to bed. Instead, the tie remains finely balanced before the rematch next week in Athens, which will determine whether Arsenal are tormented by Greek ghosts once again.
“It was in the home game last year against Olympiakos, whose stadium will host the second leg, that Aubameyang’s late miss condemned Arsenal to a devastating exit at this stage of the Europa League.
“A repeat outcome would threaten to strip their current campaign of any real meaning but that would have looked distinctly unlikely had he converted Héctor Bellerín’s 19th-minute cross.
“The right-back had sprinted beyond Benfica’s defence and laid the ball on a plate seven yards out; the only explanation can be that Aubameyang took his eye off it, his sidefooted shot running well wide when anyone would have expected the net to bulge.
“Aubameyang’s other two sights came after Saka had scored the leveller, which briefly opened up a largely dull game. The more difficult chance brought an effort drilled narrowly wide from 18 yards after Martin Ødegaard, whose delicately weighted passes were the night’s most agreeable feature, had played him in but he should certainly have done better when a marvellous Gabriel ball sent him through 15 minutes from time.”