Arsenal came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw with Benfica in the away leg of their last 32 Europa League tie in Rome on Thursday night.
Mikel Arteta’s side should have taken the lead early on, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang somehow managed to fire wide from all of six yards out with the goal gaping.
Benfica were handed a glorious opportunity to take the lead shortly after half-time, when Emile Smith Rowe was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area. Pizzi, this season’s leading scorer in the Europa League, stepped up and made no mistake from the spot.
The lead lasted just two minutes, with Bukayo Saka tapping home to round of a beautiful, flowing Arsenal move.
Both sides pushed for a winner in a bid to take a slender lead into the second leg in Athens next Thursday, though the score remained 1-1 with the tie finely poised at the halfway point.
That’s the match highlights out of the way, now to the Arsenal player ratings.
Bernd Leno (GK) – 6/10 – Not given an awful lot to do on the night but looked comfortable with the ball at his feet and showed good handling.
Hector Bellerin (RB) – 7/10 – His usual energetic self down the Arsenal right. Supported Saka well and provided a decoy as the young winger looked to drive inside. Solid defensive display in what was a good night’s work.
David Luiz (CB) – 6/10 – Hard to think of a glaring error which immediately scores him a 10/10 on the David Luiz scale. However, when his performance is rated as an actual Premier League footballer, it was steady if not spectacular.
Gabriel (CB) – 7/10 – Dominant in the air and showed a good positional sense. Stepped into midfield where possible and produced arguably the pass of the game as he picked out Aubameyang with a ball over the top, but the frontman couldn’t find the finish.
Cedric Soares (LB) – 6/10 – Produced a nicely-weighted ball to Saka who applied the finish. The former Southampton man looked solid on the evening before being replaced by Kieran Tierney in the second half.
Granit Xhaka (CM) – 7/10 – Sat at the base of the Arsenal midfield and did the dirty work which allowed those ahead of him to strut their stuff. An unusually disciplined display from the Swiss international.
Dani Ceballos (CM) – 6/10 – Struggled to keep hold of the ball and was guilty of conceding possession cheaply on a number of occasions. Did at least look threatening when running with the ball but not his best night’s work.
Martin Odegaard (AM) – 7/10 – Produced a superb ball to open up the game and allow Cedric the chance to lay it on a plate for Saka. Started to pull the strings as the game wore on and is beginning to settle nicely into this Arsenal side.
Bukayo Saka (RW) – 8/10 – Slotted home the equaliser at a crucial point in the game. Always looked lively cutting in from the left-hand side and was the spark for anything good on the night for the Gunners.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – 4/10 – Produced one of the misses of his career early on as he missed what was pretty much an open goal. Did his best to lead the line but clearly much better suited to the wide areas. Missed another great opportunity in the second half when through on goal.
Emile Smith Rowe (LW) – 7/10 – Constantly looked to drive at the Benfica defence and skip by his man. Was a little unfortunate to concede the penalty but it’s a sharp learning curve for the youngster and on the whole his performance was impressive.
Kieran Tierney (LB) – 6/10
Gabriel Martinelli (ST) – 6/10
Nicolas Pepe (LW) – 5/10
Willian (RW) – N/A
Mohamed Elneny (CM) – N/A