LIVE: Arsenal vs Benfica

LIVE: Arsenal vs Benfica

36′ After that spell of Benfica pressure, Arsenal are back in control. Xhaka attempts to thread a pass down the line. It is cut out, but Smith Rowe leads the counter-press, preventing Benfica from breaking.

34′ CLOSE! A first real opening for Benfica comes from a set-piece. Pizzi whipped in an inviting cross which was met by former Tottenham man Vertonghen. He gets his head on it, but can’t keep his effort down.

31′ Since the start of last season, Saka has provided more assists in all competitions than any other Arsenal player (17).

29′ Benfica’s tactics were clearly to contain Arsenal and try to steal an away goal on the break, to give them the edge in the tie. From that perspective, the tie has not changed too much – a 1-1 draw would send this game to extra-time.

27′ Aubameyang has scored in seven of his last eight cup matches for Arsenal (nine goals – five in the FA Cup, three in the Europa League and one in the Community Shield). 

25′ Arsenal are playing with real verve and confidence. Ceballos – who has seen plenty of the ball in midfield – takes on a strike from long range, but skies it well over.

23′ Another chance for Arsenal, as Verissimo makes a mess of his attempted clearance. Aubameyang tries to pounce on it, but can’t get enough on his header.

Arsenal

21′ It was a perfect pass from Saka, who found the space to unleash Aubameyang and dissect Benfica’s three-man defence, which of course includes Premier League veterans Vertonghen and Otamendi, who certainly aren’t the quickest.

Arsenal

21′ GOAL! ARSENAL TAKE THE LEAD! Aubameyang has put the Gunners ahead, lifting a superb, composed finish over Helton after latching onto Saka’s excellent through ball. There is a check for offside, but the goal stands. It’s 1-0 Arsenal!

19′ Neat and tidy play from Benfica, who have now got a foothold in the match and are getting the influential Pizzi more involved. 

17′ Arsenal have enjoyed 58.7 per cent possession so far, though they have managed just one attempt, the same amount as Benfica.

15′ That’s poor from Seferovic! He got onto a neat pass in behind Arsenal’s line but, without getting his head up, he drilled in a cross which was aimed at nobody in particular, and since no Benfica players had got up in support, the move comes to nothing.

13′ Benfica have hardly had any of the ball, but are now starting to offer more of a threat on the break. Arsenal’s defence recovered, but the Portuguese team certainly have plenty of attacking quality on show.

11′ Arsenal have won five of their last six home matches against Portuguese opposition (D1), scoring 20 goals across those five victories.

9′ Benfica surrender possession cheaply in midfield – Pizzi’s backheel putting them on the back foot. Saka attempts a cross, but can’t find a team-mate.

8′ A long ball sets Aubameyang clear. He races to keep it in and cuts in on his right foot but, from a tight angle, his attempts curler floats harmlessly to Helton.

7′ Tierney bursts down the left and manages to attempt a cross. However, Goncalves followed the left-back all the way and got a foot on it, allowing Helton to collect under no pressure.

Benfica

5′ An early booking for Taarabt – who of course is a former Premier League player. He has found his form with Benfica, but just lunged in late on Gabriel.

3′ Arsenal had a good experience on this ground last season, when they beat Olympiacos in the first leg of their round of 32 tie. However, they then slumped out in thrilling fashion in the return fixture, before the season was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

1′ KICK-OFF! Arsenal get proceedings underway.

The teams are out on the pitch and almost ready to go. As Arsenal are officially the home team – even though this game is being played in Athens – a 0-0 draw would be enough to send the Gunners through.

Just one change from the side that started in Rome for the Gunners, as Tierney replaces Cedric. David Luiz is making his 100th European appearance, going up against one of his former clubs. Benfica have made two alterations, with Rafa and Seferovic coming in.

Mikel Arteta unsurprisingly names a strong XI, headed by captain Aubameyang. With the Gunners well off the pace in the race for a top-four spot in the Premier League, this represents probably their best chance of playing in next season’s Champions League. Former Spurs attacking midfielder Adel Taarabt is among the Benfica line-up.

BENFICA SUBSTITUTES: Gilberto, Chiquinho, Pedrinho, Darwin Nunez, Everton, Gabriel Pires, Franco Cervi, Odisseas Vlachodimos, Mile Svilar, Goncalo Ramos, Gian-Luca Waldschmidt, Nuno Tavares.

BENFICA (3-5-2): Helton Leite; Jan Vertonghen, Lucas Verissimo, Nicolas Otamendi; Alejandro Grimaldo; Adel Taarabt; Diogo Gonçalves, Pizzi, Julian Weigl; Haris Seferovic, Rafa.  

ARSENAL SUBSTITUTES: Pablo Mari, Willian, Mohamed Elneny, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah, Calum Chambers, Cedric Soares, Karl Hein, Mat Ryan, Gabriel Martinelli.

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, David Luiz, Gabriel Magalhaes, Kieran Tierney; Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka; Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Like in the first leg, travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic means an alternative venue for this contest was needed, and it is all to play for at the halfway stage – this tie is taking place in Athens. Last week’s match was played in Rome.

The tie is nicely poised from last week’s first clash between these European heavyweights, with Pizzi’s 55th-minute penalty quickly cancelled out by Bukaya Saka. 

Hello and welcome to our LIVE coverage of this Europa League last-32 second-leg contest between Arsenal and Benfica, being played at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Greece!

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