Arsenal fell prey to an outstanding display by Villarreal that left the trailing by a goal to two, in a Semifinal encounter between the two, Villarreal hosting the game at the Estadio de la Ceramica for the first leg of this year’s UEFA Europa Semifinal.
However, Arsenal could not be as written out as some fans might think. Nicholas Pepe netted a second half penalty that offered The Gunners the much needed lifeline, a very small but possible means of a return into the game for a side that has not had much to show for this season.
Villarreal were last seen on the same stage in the 2015-16 season, losing the Semifinal by 1-3 to Liverpool on aggregate, and have been eliminated from all four major European Semifinal encounters in which they have participated, very bad history for the stage that they seek to conquer but ever so slightly the hope that the Gunners need while gearing up for the second leg at home. Historically, Arsenal had failed to beat Villarreal in an away game, drawing on both encounters.
Arsenal’s hope for a final were further brought closer to the void when Dani Ceballos received his second yellow for his challenge against Dani Parejo, leaving a 10-man side to battle it out for the remainder of the 90 minutes against an energized enemy.
Villarreal went down to a 10-man squad when Etienne Capoue challenged Saka to earn his second yellow of the game. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who only came in as a substitute, having not been fit for the game, reportedly having just healed from malaria almost upset the deficit with his attempt on goal that had to be put out by the goalkeeper in the dying minutes of the game.
The one goal margin left a small task for Arsenal to clear if they wish to chance at silverware when they meet their opponents at home to advance to the final, in which they would then encounter one of two winners between Manchester United and Roma, the other pair that are facing each other in the Semifinal of the same competition.