Nicolas Pepe’s second-half penalty gave 10-man Arsenal a lifeline after they were beaten 2-1 by Unai Emery’s Villarreal in a dramatic Europa League semi-final first leg in Spain on Thursday evening.
The Gunners started the game on the backfoot as Villarrealbroke the deadlock five minutes in through Manu Trigueros, who tapped the ball home from close range after receiving a pass from Samuel Chukwueze.
Villarreal managed to double their lead in the 29th minute after Dani Parejo delivered a sensational corner to Gerard Moreno, who nodded it towards an unmarked Raul Albiol, who slotted the ball home at the back post.
Arsenal thought they should’ve been awarded a penalty in the 35th minute after Nicolas Pépé was brought down in the area by Juan Foyth, but the penalty was chalked off and the handball decision stood against the Ivorian.
Bernd Leno came to his sides rescue on the stroke of half time when he made a good save to deny Paco Alcácer’s attempt at goal as the game went into the half time break.
The Premier League side should have reduced the deficit four minutes into the second half but Smith Rowe’s cross from the right just missed Pepe at the back post.
But things went from bad to worse for Arsenal after 57 minutes of play as Dani Ceballos was shown his marching order after picking up his second yellow card of the game.
Arsenal were then awarded a penalty in the 71st minute when Trigueros brought down Saka inside the box. Pepe stepped up and drove the ball straight past the Villarreal goalkeeper.
The Spanish side were reduced to 10-man in the 80th minute when Étienne Capoue was shown a red card for receiving his second yellow card in the game.
Arsenal failed to make the most of their chances in the final minutes of the second half but were unable to bypass the Spanish sides defence as the game ended 2-1 in favour of Villarreal.
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