Heartbreak for Arsenal as dramatic extra-time Olympiacos goal sends them out of Europa League

Finishes do not come much crueller or, heck, more Arsenal. Only they could crash out like this. 

After 113 minutes, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s acrobatic overhead kick had looked to put Arsenal through to the last 16 of the Europa League. Qualification for next season’s Champions League is reliant on it, for over-turning sizeable deficits of 17 and 14 points to fourth and fifth respectively are the stuff of dreamers and druggies.

But who could fathom what followed, as a cross recycled into the box in the final minute of extra time by found Youssef El Arabi unmarked and unwavering to make it 2-1 to Olympiakos.

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And if they thought it could not be any worse, then how about the sight of that man, Aubameyang, missing the simplest of chances with the last meaningful kick of the game. A scuffed effort from less than six yards out that would have seen Arsenal through by an immeasurable margin.

A miss he and those on his side here at the Emirates and across the world will have many a nightmare about.


25 stars that could light up this season’s Europa League



1/26 25 stars that could light up this season’s Europa League

2/26 Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Lazio

3/26 Reiss Nelson, Arsenal

4/26 Robinho, Istanbul Basaksehir

5/26 Marcus Thuram, Borussia Monchengladbach

6/26 Andre Silva, Eintracht Frankfurt

7/26 Bruno Fernandes, Sporting Lisbon

8/26 Joe Aribo, Rangers

9/26 Donyell Malen, PSV

10/26 Jonathan David, Gent

11/26 Viktor Tsygankov, Dynamo Kiev

12/26 Daniel Sturridge, Trabzonspor

13/26 Enric Gallego, Getafe

14/26 Odsonne Edouard, Celtic

15/26 William Saliba, St Etienne

16/26 Fyodor Chalov, CSKA Moscow

17/26 Jerome Roussillon, Wolfsburg

18/26 Wu Lei, Espanyol

19/26 Asmir Begovic, Qarabag

20/26 Eduardo Camavinga, Rennes

21/26 Myron Boadu, AZ Alkmaar

22/26 Morgan Gibbs-White, Wolves

23/26 Moussa Marega, Porto

24/26 Nicolo Zaniolo, Roma

25/26 Lucas Ocampos, Sevilla

26/26 Mason Greenwood, Manchester United

1/26 25 stars that could light up this season’s Europa League

2/26 Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Lazio

3/26 Reiss Nelson, Arsenal

4/26 Robinho, Istanbul Basaksehir

5/26 Marcus Thuram, Borussia Monchengladbach

6/26 Andre Silva, Eintracht Frankfurt

7/26 Bruno Fernandes, Sporting Lisbon

8/26 Joe Aribo, Rangers

9/26 Donyell Malen, PSV

10/26 Jonathan David, Gent

11/26 Viktor Tsygankov, Dynamo Kiev

12/26 Daniel Sturridge, Trabzonspor

13/26 Enric Gallego, Getafe

14/26 Odsonne Edouard, Celtic

15/26 William Saliba, St Etienne

16/26 Fyodor Chalov, CSKA Moscow

17/26 Jerome Roussillon, Wolfsburg

18/26 Wu Lei, Espanyol

19/26 Asmir Begovic, Qarabag

20/26 Eduardo Camavinga, Rennes

21/26 Myron Boadu, AZ Alkmaar

22/26 Morgan Gibbs-White, Wolves

23/26 Moussa Marega, Porto

24/26 Nicolo Zaniolo, Roma

25/26 Lucas Ocampos, Sevilla

26/26 Mason Greenwood, Manchester United

But here we are, 2-2 on aggregate to the Greeks, so deep into the night we might as well call it Friday. Olympiakos with the two away goals – one more than Arsenal. Olympiakos through to the round of 16 – one more than Arsenal.

The goal that took the tie to extra time came on 53 minutes in tame fashion, befitting Arsenal’s effort for the majority of this fixture.

Despite there being more red than blue in the home penalty area, Pape Abou Cisse was not only allowed to ghost in unescorted but also found space to guide a header into the bottom corner.

Were it not for the bravery of Shrodan Mustafi – who blocked a shot that damaged his ankle in the final minutes of added time – Olympiakos might have even stolen it with the last play of regular time. They also came close in the second-half of extra-time when substitute Giorgos Masouras clipped the top of the bar. He scratched that itch by setting up El Arabi’s winner. 

On another night, though, the visitors might have been a man down after 20 minutes. The only reason they weren’t, perhaps, was because referee Davide Massa could not decide which of Oussenyou Ba or Abou Cisse was the final man between Nicolas Pepe having a free run on goal from the edge of the box.

In the end, Ba was pulled up for the offence, though only for a yellow card. And once the Pepe had dusted himself off to whip the free-kick just over the bar, there was a palpable sense of injustice and relief from three sides and one side of the ground, respectively.

Not by coincidence, Olympiakos began to grow in the game and their full allocation of away support began to believe, as passes to and from their midfielders became that little bit slicker and sweeter than the pistachio goodness out of a Bounds Green bakery. Who knows what might have been had Mohamed Camara not lost all his composure on a three-on-two break. The chance to put the ball into the middle or strike across goal were waived for a schoolyard toe punt wide of the near post from nine yards out.

Conversely, Arsenal suddenly lost their snap of recent weeks and, invariably, the home crowd pulled them up on it. They’d started well: pinging passes about, particularly in front of the Olympiakos goal. Mesut Ozil bandying around, Pepe shifting and cutting in like a mirror-imagine Thierry Henry, Granit Xhaka trying to keep out of the way of everything good.

It did not take long for that to give way to some hopeful dinks and many a flat-footed played in white and red lamenting each other. The moment something of worth did spring up – Buyako Saka in behind the defence for the first time of the night on 38 minutes – he was ajudged off-side. The subsequent cross and tap-in from Alexandre Lacazette now moot.

That carried over into the second-half and, this time, Olympiakos profited. It was with their first break of the second-half that they earned the corner which drew them level on aggregate.

And the subsequent brace of forays that followed were only obsolete through Bernd Leno’s bravery and agility. The first saw him bash away Youssef El Arabi when a chipped pass almost had him free on the point of the six-yard box. The second had him diving high to his left to tip over the bar as Kostas Tsimikas drifted in from the left, beyond Hector Bellerin and anyone else expected to be on watch, and tried to bend one with his right inside the far post.

That seemed to be the end of any adventure for the Greeks, who instead decided to soak up what pressure Arsenal were able to manufacture and, if possession allowed, hit them on the break. Naturally, there was the odd hopeful effort from range that sailed widely off target.

In fact, it took until 75 minutes for Arsenal to register their first shot on target in the second-half. That came via Pepe, who was Arsenal’s biggest threat on the night, dealing almost exclusively in drops of the shoulder and cut-backs.

The shot he managed to get off on this occasion –  on his left foot, of course – was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Jose Sa, who was relieved to see his parry just evade the loitering Lacazette.

But that was all Arsenal could ever really hope for. Breaks of the ball, wishes and whims. They expected rather than executed and that, from start to finish, was why they find themselves on their knees tonight. The three victories leading into this fixture and the sense of progress they brought with them are now dust. Any sense of progress, any iota of turning the corner – all gone. 

This is their first defeat of 2020 and in a match that, without question, may prove to be their most important of the year. For football reasons, finances and simply credibility as a club, it was a devastating blow dealt in the most devastating fashion. 

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