Arsenal beats a Porto team grown in Pepe’s castle on penalties | Soccer | Sports


The leader of the Premier couldn’t beat Pepe. For 120 long minutes, Arsenal became entangled between the lines governed by this defender who at 41 years old shone with a poise, a skill and a solvency that he did not have in his exalted youth. Arsenal crashed against their Porto team, a rock of generous, tenacious and flexible players in their incessant mobility. Arteta’s team entered the match with a calculating spirit. So much patience sent him into a spiral of anxiety. Before their terrified fans, the drama of extra time and the penalty shootout took place, resolved by two saves by the Spanish David Raya.


David Raya, Ben White, Gabriel, Jakub Kiwior (Zinchenko, min. 105), William Saliba, Odegaard, Declan Rice, Jorginho (Gabriel Jesus, min. 82), Kai Havertz, Bukayo Saka and Trossard (Eddie Nketiah, min. 105 )



Diogo Costa, Pepe, Joao Mario (Jorge Sánchez, min. 85), Wendell, Otávio, Wanderson Galeno, Nico González (Stephen Eustáquio, min. 101), Alan Varela, Pepê, Francisco Conceição (Gonçalo Borges, min. 101) and Evanilson (Mehdi Taremi, min. 88)

Goals 1-0 min. 40: Trossard.

Referee Clement Turpin

Yellow cards William Saliba (min. 38), Arteta (min. 68), Pepe (min. 72), Marceneiro da Conceição (min. 78) and Kai Havertz (min. 116)

Porto stepped onto the Emirates with the caution of an intruder. Little by little, he discovered reasons to feel welcomed. Arteta, who has one of the squads best equipped for pressure in the opposing half, deployed the most conservative version of it. As if instead of overturning the 1-0 in the first leg he needed to defend a 0-1, the coach lined up Jorginho as a pivot and Rice, another pivot, as an inside left. He sacrificed mobility in search of security in the defensive pass. He moved Trossard to the far left and instead of sending a mass advance pressure, he preferred to reserve a man or two in the rearguard, so as not to be discovered. Pepe, Varela and Aquino didn’t take long to string clean passes towards their forwards.

Oxygenated by the unexpected warmth of their rival, Porto found themselves in their element. Sergio Conceiçao’s team, an experienced concrete wall builder, played as if nothing would happen. He multiplied the back passes and, when he found that spaces were being freed up for him, he advanced. This is how Evanilson provoked a stretch from Raya after a rapid advance led by Aquino and Conceiçao. It was the best chance of the first half hour of the game. Inflamed like the teams that concentrate their energy on resisting, every minute that the visiting goal remained intact charged Porto with conviction. Pepe and his teammates celebrated each duel won by encouraging each other. The wall grew thicker when Odegaard took the first divided ball that his teammates in midfield won.

Odegaard and Trossard

Conceiçao had foreseen it. His platoon coordinated their pressure movements on the area occupied by the Norwegian. The news has spread throughout Europe: Odegaard is the most imaginative, complete and clever player on the London team. The Helmsman Aquino, Nico González and Varela caged him in turns. Also in the 44th minute, when Odegaard received that contested ball in midfield. He seemed far from Diogo Costa’s goal. He seemed surrounded. But suddenly, quick as anyone to conceive the most damaging action, he saw Trossard to the left of him and transformed a slot into a highway of advance. Trossard returned the pass and Odegaard, harassed by Aquino, who fouled him, replaced the ball in the area with a surgeon’s touch. It was almost a penalty. Trossard, whose activity had helped his teammates all over the field, did not forgive Costa. The tie was tied at 1-0 near halftime. There was a desert left to cross.

Arteta resisted replacing Havertz – outplayed by Pepe in every action – in the same way that he brought Gabriel Jesús into the tie very late. The two decisions contributed to clogging the game of an Arsenal that was overly dependent on Odegaard’s initiative. Minutes passed. Pepe infected his colleagues with conviction. The extra time passed. The penalties arrived. Raya’s hand saved Arsenal. The goalkeeper celebrated the passage to the quarterfinals by hugging Arteta, who went looking for him to point him out to the stands as the providential hero. The author of the escape.

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