Danny Welbeck scored the only goal of the game as Arsenal beat Sporting Lisbon to stretch out their winning streak to 11 games. After a great extent of uninspiring and a forgettable first half, the Gunners bit by bit improved after the break and took control of Group E with a 1-0 triumph at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.
Momentum is an inquisitive thing. It requires a significant stretch of time to warm up and can go cool all of a sudden, but right now it is fuelling the North London side. However, this was not their most superb performance in recent weeks but rather they had enough quality to broaden their winning games in all competition to 11 and stay top on Group E in the Europa League.
Granit Xhaka lined up in an unfamiliar role of left-back as Unai Emery rolled out six changes for the Europa League game in Portugal, with Welbeck one of those drafted in.
It wasn’t for the absence of effort, nor quality – both team’s fielded in a solid team: Aaron Ramsey, Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all starting for the visiting Premier League side while former Manchester United star Nani featured for Sporting.
The game’s first shot on target came in the 24th minute when Henrikh Mkhitaryan sent a free kick towards the Sporting goal, but it was a fair and comfortable strike for Renan Ribeiro to save aside.
Effortlessly the most obvious opportunity tumbled to Nani in the 31st minute following a slip-up in the Arsenal defence, and the Portuguese forward powerful strike fairly missed the top corner.
However, the undeniable truth remains this is a defect which is yet to wreck Arsenal’s form. They keep on starting slowly, but they also keep on showing signs of improvement as the match progresses. It was again the situation here, while Sporting were stretched and frustrated until the point that finally succumbs to the pressure.
Arsenal goal came fortuitously, as Sporting were at long last punished when Sebastian Coates tried in vain to stop a backheel from Aubameyang, unfortunately for him to divert the ball for Welbeck to control forward and steer a powerful shot past Ribeiro.
The wins mean a draw in the second leg at the Emirates Stadium in a fortnight could be sufficient to seal the Gunners progression into the last-32 with two games remaining.
All the more critically, though, was the fact that Arsenal stretched out their impressive winning run to 11 matches. The Gunners are coming stronger week by week under Emery as of late and few would wager against them making it 12 on the bounce against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sunday.
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