Arsenal are still in with a chance of reaching the Europa League final.
That didn’t look like being the case at half-time of their semi-final first-leg clash against Villarreal on Thursday night as Mikel Arteta’s side found themselves trailing 2-0.
Things then took a turn for the worse early in the second half when Dani Ceballos was dismissed for two bookable offences, thus leaving Arsenal with a massive mountain to the climb.
One that they made some inroads on as Nicolas Pepe’s penalty secured what could turn out to be a vital away goal for the Gunners in their bid to lift the trophy in May.
But for Villarreal boss Unai Emery, managing against his former side for the first time since being sacked in November 2019, he felt the penalty decision was a little harsh.
“When we were 2-0 up, we were penalised with a penalty that was not a penalty,” Emery said in his post-match press conference.
“The VAR is available to make the right decision, so if you don’t check VAR in that very important moment and with such a clear no penalty, you finish the match a little bit upset because of some mistakes we did, but also for some mistakes by the referee that clearly punished us.
“We need to be positive and be excited. We’ve beaten a good opponent.
“From tomorrow, we will try and build on the game ahead of next Thursday.”
Pepe’s penalty means a 1-0 win for Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium next week will be enough – by virtue of the away goals rule – will be enough to seal a place in the final.
And hopes of doing exactly that have been boosted by the news that Emery is facing a second major Villarreal blow ahead of his return to north London.
At 3pm today until 11:59pm on Monday, all sports channels across the entire Reach network, including football.london, will join the boycott of social media as part of the campaign against online hate.
So far this season players at all of the capital’s top-flight clubs have been subject to horrendous abuse – from Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Willian to Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and Reece James to Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha.
No dressing room has been spared this disgusting plague. Enough is enough.
That is why the Premier League, FA, Kick It Out and Women’s Super League have been joined by clubs up and down the country as well as organisations from cricket, rugby, cycling and horse racing in staging the boycott. Above all they want the social media platforms to take more responsibility for keeping hate out of our sport.
As journalists this is not a decision we take lightly but we believe it is important that Reach titles add their voices to the calls for greater action against the epidemic of online hate and be a force for good in the communities we serve.
As the nation’s biggest sports publisher we will of course continue to create the outstanding sports content – from Premier League to local matches – for which we are famous. We just won’t be sharing this content on social over the weekend.
Our news accounts will also continue to share the biggest breaking news this weekend, including covering the impact of this boycott.
As reported in Spain, Juan Foyth is likely to be out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury which forced him off late on against Arsenal.
This is a huge blow for the La Liga outfit as the Argentine – who is currently on loan from Tottenham – played a key role in Manu Trigueros’ opener with a driving run through the Gunners’ defence.
And with Etienne Capoue also out of the decider because of suspension, Emery will have to reshuffle his pack to prevent his former club reaching the Europa League final.