Arsenal to face Italian giants in last 16 of the Europa League
Gunners are drawn against AC Milan after surviving scare against Swedish minnows
23 February, 2018 — By By Paul Cowling
Europa League Round of 32
ARSENAL 1 (Kolasinac 47)
OSTERSUNDS FK 2 (Chambers OG 22, Sema 23)
(Arsenal win 4-2 on aggregate)
ARSENAL will face AC Milan after scraping through to the last 16 of the Europa League, despite losing the second leg of their tie against Ostersunds.
After winning the first leg 3-0, the Gunners survived a scare at the Emirates last night, going two goals down against the Swedish minnows. A goal from Saed Kolasinac made the final aggregate score 4-2 to Arsenal.
They result means they will now take on the Italian giants over two legs – the first will be at the San Siro on March 8. The return fixture will be a week later.
Ostersunds thoroughly deserved their second leg victory over an Arsenal side who were well below par. The club are the European football story of the moment and, for the first 45 minutes at the Emirates, it did seem as if the cosmopolitan side managed by an unheralded Englishman might pull off one of the greatest shocks in recent football history when they took an early 2-0 lead.
After the match, their Yorkshire-born coach, Graham Potter, congratulated Arsenal. He said: “As an English guy, I hope they (Arsenal) go on and win the competition.”
Gunners boss Arsene Wenger admitted the Gunners “weren’t at the races in the first half”.
“They are a good side, and we were in trouble and in danger,” said a candid Wenger.
Holding a three-goal advantage from the first leg, Wenger admitted there had been an element of complacency, but he insisted the side he put out had “prepared properly in a serious way”.
Wenger started with eight of the side that eased to the 3-0 victory in shivering Sweden. Nacho Monreal and Shokodran Mustafi warmed the bench, while Mesut Ozil was absent through illness.
The Emirates was only a few degrees above freezing, and the chill seemed to suit the Swedes who showed an attacking intent from the off.
It was no more than Ostersunds deserved when Hosam Aiesh’s shot took a deflection off Calum Chambers in the 22nd minute. But there was sheer disbelief from Arsenal fans when Ken Sema drilled in a thumping left-footed drive a minute later to make it 2-0 – two away goals in less than 70 seconds.
Sema and Aiesh were real threats on the flanks for a flat Arsenal side who went in at half-time to groans and some jeers from bewildered Gunners fans.
But jeers turned to cheers right at the start of the second half, as Saed Kolasinac capitalised on a ballet air-kick from Ronald Mukiibi to fire home and make the score 2-1 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate.
Any thoughts that the visitors might run out of steam were dispelled as Ostersunds continued to attack the Arsenal rearguard. But David Ospina was rarely troubled again as Arsenal overcame a very real scare to book their passage for the next stage of their Europa League adventure.
“I am incredibly proud of our performance,” added Potter. “When I arrived at the club in 2010, we didn’t have anything. But to see 5,000 people from a small town get on planes to come here, it is a wonderful feeling for me.”
ARSENAL: Ospina; Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Kolasinac; Mkhitaryan, Elneny, Maitland-Niles (Xhaka 46), Iwobi (Nelson 90+2); Wilshere (C) (Willock 76) ; Welbeck
Subs not used: Macey, Monreal, Mustafi, Nketiah.
OSTERSUNDS FK: Keita; Mukiibi (Islamovic 73), Papagiannopoulos, Petersson, Widgren; Aiesh (Tekie 46), Edwards, Nouri (C), Sema; Ghoddos, Hopkutt (Arhin 81)
Subs not used: Andersson, Bergvist, Gero, Mensah