Tuesday 28 January 2020

Calamitous Gunners throw Europa hopes in doubt

Stade Rennais 3 Arsenal 1

Nacho Monreal
Nacho Monreal

Arsenal suffered more Europa League away day blues as their 10 men were well beaten by Rennes in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

The Gunners raced into an early lead courtesy of Alex Iwobi but a first-half red card for Sokratis Papastathopoulos turned the game in favour of Rennes.

Hatem Ben Arfa, facing his former Paris St Germain boss Unai Emery, looked sharp as a stunning strike from Benjamin Bourigeaud, Nacho Monreal's own goal and a late Ismaila Sarr header saw the hosts run out deserved 3-1 winners.

Arsenal had to turn around a first-leg deficit in the previous round after slipping to defeat at BATE Borisov but at least have an away goal to take back to north London.

Not even 24 hours removed from Manchester United's memorable Champions League comeback across the country in Paris, Arsenal slipped to a dour defeat.

Applications for tickets could have sold out Roazhon Park three times over and the home support made a cauldron of noise which only intensified as their team took the tie by the scruff of the neck.

The evening had started well with Arsenal ahead inside four minutes as Iwobi misplaced a low cross and it caught out goalkeeper Tomas Koubek, nestling in the corner of his net to give the Gunners an early away goal.

Sokratis was booked for bringing down Ben Arfa as he looked to break on the Arsenal goal, the winger's resulting free-kick saved low to his right by Petr Cech. It was not too long before the Greece international was given his marching orders, shown a second yellow card in a matter of seven minutes for hauling back Sarr.

Arsenal were made to pay immediately, Ben Arfa's free-kick hitting the wall only for Bourigeaud to thrash home the rebound from 20 yards and draw the hosts level.

Rennes started the second half like a side with a one-man advantage and the lead soon belonged to Julien Stephan's side - and it was Arsenal who gifted it to them.

A number of defensive errors culminated in Monreal miscuing a clearance and turning Mehdi Zeffane's cross past Cech for an own goal.

Emery's side will have to reach the quarter-finals the hard way after Sarr's diving header after 88 minutes compounded a poor night for the visitors. Emery said afterwards: "We had one chance through Mesut (Ozil) but this was not enough. At 2-1 we are thinking it is not a bad result but the transition for us is bad and they won the first 90 minutes.

"We have the next 90 minutes at home with our supporters, when we will start with 11 against 11. When we were playing 11 against 11 we were playing well. We lost in this situation but we had one less player on the pitch."

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