Download Video: Arsenal 1 – 1 Atletico Madrid [Europa League] Highlights 2017/18
Atletico Madrid defender Sime Vrsaljko was sent off inside 10 minutes against Arsenal but Antoine Griezmann still grabbed a 1-1 draw.
Antoine Griezmann equalised eight minutes from time to grab a 1-1 draw and give 10-man Atletico Madrid the advantage in their Europa League semi-final against Arsenal.
An expectant Emirates Stadium enjoyed an early onslaught from the Gunners in Arsene Wenger’s final European home match and Atletico right-back Sime Vrsaljko haphazardly collecting two yellow cards inside the opening 10 minutes placed further onus on the hosts.
Atleti’s famously miserly backline played without direction from boss Diego Simeone, who was sent to the stands by referee Clement Turpin, having refused to curtail his protests following Vrsaljko’s dismissal.
They managed to hold out until the 61st-minute, when Lacazette expertly directed Jack Wilshere’s cross beyond Jan Oblak.
Simeone’s men had virtually disappeared as an attacking force in the closing stages but an ever-alert Griezmann preyed upon shoddy work from Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny to bear down on goal, find the roof of the net and entirely alter the complexion of an absorbing tie.
9 – Antoine Griezmann has been directly involved in nine goals in European competition in 2017/18 (six goals and three assists); his most ever in a single season. Lifeline. pic.twitter.com/89dKAkpZvT
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 26, 2018
Atleti made a sloppy start in keeping with their recent wobbles in LaLiga as Wilshere intercepted a slack pass from Jose Gimenez and Vrsaljko was booked for crudely bringing down the England midfielder with 75 seconds on the clock.
Lacazette volleyed wastefully wide from Danny Welbeck’s excellent cross before Oblak sharply kept out a header from the France striker.
Both opportunities arrived down Vrsaljko’s flank and the right-back’s torment would soon be curtailed as Lacazette touched the ball clear of the Croatia international, who trod on his ankle.
9 – Sime Vrsaljko has received both the fastest yellow card (1:15) and second yellow card (9:09) in the Europa League this season. Bath. pic.twitter.com/1GeBSL0NW2
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 26, 2018
The two bookings seemed entirely justified, although not in Simeone’s eyes. The Atleti boss howled for punishment when Hector Bellerin brought down Lucas Hernandez in the 13th minute and Turpin decided he had heard enough.
Arsenal’s early pressure was duly ramped up, with Atletico captain Diego Godin bravely blocking from Welbeck before Oblak denied the England forward with his boot.
From the resulting 21st-minute corner, Koscielny hooked over at the back post from Lacazette’s flick-on.
Atleti were now consumed with one of their famed European rearguards but the mercurial Griezmann almost beat David Ospina in the 37th minute following Thomas Partey’s driving run.
Arsenal resumed with the lion’s share of possession after the interval but Atleti’s defensive obduracy generally drove them down blind alleys.
Just as they appeared to be running out of ideas, the home side hit the front â€“ Griezmann was hustled out of possession on the edge of his own box and the ball was worked to Wilshere, who hung an astute cross up to the back post where Lacazette’s finish was of a similar calibre.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 26, 2018
Experienced holding midfielder Gabi came on for striker Kevin Gameiro as Atletico made it clear damage limitation was their priority, but there was time for Griezmann to atone for his earlier slip.
The 27-year-old was alive to the possibilities of a hopeful punt forward, startling countryman Koscielny into an untimely slip, shooting against Ospina and flicking into the roof of the net via the similarly prone Shkodran Mustafi.
Aaron Ramsey’s flying header forced Oblak’s best save of a busy night as the clock ticked down but Wenger’s hopes of a golden farewell have suffered a considerable blow.