PRAGUE: The Gunners were minutes away from claiming a 1-0 first-leg win after Nicolas Pepe’s late opener.
Arsenal will endeavour to keep their prospects of European glory alive when they travel to Slavia Prague for the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie on Thursday evening.
The Gunners were minutes away from claiming a 1-0 first-leg win after Nicolas Pepe’s late opener, but Tomas Holes scrambled home right at the death to rescue a 1-1 draw and a priceless away goal for Slavia.
In a sight that Arsenal supporters have been forced to endure time and time again this season, Mikel Arteta’s side squandered countless opportunities to put the tie to bed in the first leg, and it was not until the 86th minute that substitutes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe combined to give Arsenal the lead at the Emirates.
Arteta’s side were seconds away from making nearly 90 minutes of frustration worthwhile, but after giving away a corner in the fourth minute of added time. Slavia defender Holes managed to scramble home at the back post to ensure that the spoils were shared in the first leg, as Arsenal’s agonising wait for a clean sheet continued.
Scenes of unbridled delirium followed for Jindrich Trpisovsky’s men in the English capital, and Slavia were able to carry that momentum forward into the Prague derby with Sparta Prague, as strikes from Holes and Stanislav Tecl propelled the unbeaten leaders to a 2-0 triumph on Sunday.
Trpisovsky’s men have now strung together a remarkable 23-game unbeaten run across all competitions and are yet to lose at home in the entire campaign – winning 11 and drawing two of their last 13 at their headquarters – although the two sides who managed to prevent Slavia from winning on their own soil were Leicester City and Rangers in the previous rounds of the Europa League.
In a major attacking boost, Arteta will be able to welcome Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka back to the squad – but both may not be risked from the start just yet – while Martin Odegaard will have to pass a late fitness test.
Arteta is optimistic that Aubameyang will recover from illness in time to feature, and Martinelli has shrugged off his own injury worries, but Kieran Tierney and David Luiz remain in the treatment room.
Should Saka, Smith Rowe and Odegaard all be left out of the first XI, Dani Ceballos could feature in a more advanced midfield role after impressing against Sheffield United, allowing Granit Xhaka to return to the middle of the park as Cedric Soares deputises on the left.
Slavia Prague are looking to reach a European semi-final for the first time since 1995-96 when they made it to the last four of the UEFA Cup before losing to Bordeaux.
Arsenal are without a clean sheet in their last seven games in European competition, their longest run without a shutout since September 2017 – they last went eight without a clean sheet in Europe in a run of 15 ending in March 2002.