54 min: A poor pass from Zinchenko gifts the ball away. Sporting build slowly before unleashing Paulinho who gets a shot away inside the box on the right but it’s blocked.
Yellow Card! Sporting (Ugarte, 53)
He’s complaining but I have no idea why. Martinelli was clear past him on the left touchline and an ugly hack brought him down.
Really good from Ramsdale. He had to dive in front of the Sporting forward making a dart to the near post.
51 min: Ramsdale needed to be sharp there to snuff out the danger from a wicked low cross from the right from Esgaio. Sporting all over their hosts.
49 min: Goncalves takes the ball 40 yards to the edge of the box and as he’s about to shoot he’s brought down. No foul but Sporting get it back. It finds its way to Goncalves who lets off a hopeful shot that sails high over the bar. Sporting definitely the better of the two in this second period so far.
47 min: Good start for Sporting. Ugarte jiggles through a crowd on the left and plays in a diagonal for Pualinho on the run. He eventually dinks a ball to the back post but the attack doesn’t materialise into a shooting chance. Still, nice play that started with the goalkeeper.
OK then. We’re off. It’s bucketing down in north London. Arsenal 45 minutes away from a European quarterfinal.
“Hi Daniel,” good evening Peter Oh.
“If my sources are reliable, Sporting not-of-London have as many London-born players on the pitch as Arsenal London (Marcus Edwards and Reiss Nelson).”
Global village, innit?
Jesus is off! Likely always the plan just to give him 45 minutes. Trossard will start the second half.
To our grumpy reader before the game, it is actually Arsenal London in some parts of the world:
The highlights on BT are proving my point. Sporting have had their moments. Edwards down the right and Paulinho through the middle have both shown how dangerous they can be. Both have shown jet heels and with a bit more decisive action and thought they might have found a better scoring chance.
“Greetings from Virginia Dan,” hi Eagle Brosi. I really hope that’s your real name.
“That poor ref, blocking Zinchenko from the corner was probably innocent but it’s going to be used by countless YouTubers as further proof of the big ref conspiracy against Arsenal. Here’s hoping that’s the only incident this game.”
Half Time: Arsenal 1-0 Sporting
The corner comes to nothing and Arsenal hold on to their deserved lead. Sporting started the brighter of the two teams but as soon as Arsenal’s press going going they bossed the midfield and looked the more threatening of the two teams. Xhaka got his goal to make it the most productive season he’s ever had. Martinelli has been lively down the left and Jesus has produced some moments of joy with twinkling toes and dipping shoulders. But Sporting won’t go away and came alive as the half wound down, producing a few shots of their own to remind their hosts that this ain’t over.
45+4 min: It’s a firm strike from Ugarte after some probing and prodding from Sporting. Someone had to put their boot through the ball and he duly does so. It takes a nick and goes out for a corner, whistling past the outside post.
Yellow Card! Arsenal (Xhaka, 45+3)
Trincao breaks through the middle and he scampers away from the Arsenal midfield. But Xhaka, that old fox, brings him down with a tug of the shirt. Can’t do that so he’s in the book.
45+2 min: White plays a long ball over the top for Jesus. That’s the third time by my count that he’s looked to find the Arsenal front man that way down the right flank. Something to keep an eye on.
45+1 min: Four minutes of added time. That corner is too deep and there’s no one on the back post for Sporting. Ooo, was Jorginho holding on to a Sporting player? He was. But not firm enough to go to VAR.
45 min: ~Sporting have a corner after Edwards’ shot from the right of the Arsenal box is deflected. Good work in the build up.
43 min: Sporting fighting back now. But they’re picked off in midfield again. Martinelli has it wide left before Sporting win it back. Edwards down the right but there’s no space to Paulinho and the attack dissipates.
42 min: A poor ball offers a reprieve for Arsenal. Sporting have a three on three break and Edwards has Paulinho to his left. A decent pass would have him through on goal but he over hits it and it dribbles out for a goal kick. A real let off there.
40 min: Ramsdale has to play sweeper as a long ball needs seeing to. Paulinho collects the ball on the halfway line and drives, and drives and drives until he’s on the edge of the box and shoots. But it’s miles wide. Still, shows how small the margins are.
39 min: Jorginho gets a talking to for a late challenge in midfield. Sporting just can’t get the ball. Arsenal swarm them at every turn. White plays it long but it’s no good. Doesn’t matter. Viera wins it high up the field.
Sporting slowing things down. They need to get a handle on it or else they’ll get blown away.
38 min: Oh, someone shoot! A little too cute from Arsenal. Not that it would have counted as they’re pulled up for off-side. Martinelli this time. He’s causing all sorts of problems down the left.
As Matthew Carpenter-Arevalo points out, the referee has a name. It’s Antonio Mateu Lopez, “of Argentina-Netherlands fame’”. Thanks Matt.
35 min: Martinelli has to retrieve a ball in the left corner and does so with the utmost composure. He had no business making it look that easy. He even works the space to play a ball for Jesus who has his dancing shoes on but he can’t orchestrate a shooting opportunity from the inside right of the box. Arsenal think they should have had a corner after a neat one-two between Jesus and Nelson.
34 min: Zinchenko works his way out of a tight spot and Xhaka launches another attack. It’s worked down the left and recycled for Gabriel. He has nowhere to go so feeds White. The crowd groan. Something was on there but Arsenal are patient. They’re building again with Xhaka and Jorginho biding their time.
32 min: Arsenal are in the zone here. They’re so sharp. Even when playing short passes at the back they look like a team on a mission. Xhaka dictating the tempo in the quarterback role. Viera running about like. White clips a ball for Martinelli but he’s offside. Credit to the high line from Sporting.
30 min: Brilliant from Jesus. He gets the ball under pressure outside the box. He drops his shoulder, beats one, then another, worms his way into the box and shoots. He tries to sneak it into the inside post and it’s well saved. Just wonderful footwork.
28 min: The referee gets in the way of Zinchenko at the top of the box but Arsenal recycle it. Martinelli has a shooting chance and he obliges but Adan saves. Sporting counter and Edwards has a shot inside the Arsenal box after bringing a bouncing ball down. Zinchenko, galloping across the length of the field, blocks the shot.
27 min: Jesus picks up a loose ball and drives down the middle. He plays it short to the left and Zinchenko puts Martinelli into space on the overlap. The cross os blocked. Corner.
26 min: Arsenal counter with Viera and he feeds Martinelli down the right. Jesus has it on the left and dinks one for Martinelli in the box. But it’s too long.
Yellow card! Arsenal (Viera, 24)
The Portuguese with a wand of a left foot uses it to commit a foul and his name is the first in the book.
22 min: Arsenal are thrumming now. Jesis wriggles down the right and wins a throw-in after some neat work. He’s put in space again and drives to the box. He’s fouled! Is that a penalty? No! He was offside when he received the ball. Lucky for Sporting.