Villarreal stand in way of Arsenal v Man Utd Europa League showdown
- Updated: May 5, 2021
LONDON: Arsenal’s season appeared to be ending with a whimper when they were reduced to 10 men after falling 2-0 behind against Villarreal in last week’s first leg of their Europa League semi-final.
Instead, a precious away goal gave them hope they can finish an inconsistent campaign on a high by setting up a showdown in the Polish city of Gdansk against Manchester United.
Arsenal are ninth in the Premier League table and are unlikely to qualify for Europe next year via that route but winning the Europa League would give them a ticket back to the Champions League.
Mikel Arteta’s side won the FA Cup last season but have failed to build on that triumph and are on course for a fifth consecutive finish outside the top four in the English top flight.
The Spanish manager spoke last month of his belief that Arsenal – Champions League regulars under former boss Arsene Wenger – have a “responsibility” to deliver European football for next season.
Their hopes hung by a thread when Dani Ceballos was sent off with just over half an hour to go in Spain last week after goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol had put the home side 2-0 up.
But Nicolas Pepe stepped up to score from the penalty spot to make the score 2-1 and give Arsenal genuine hope they can reach a second Europa League final in three years.
Captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returned to the scoresheet for the first time since early March in Arsenal’s 2-0 win against Newcastle on Sunday (May 2).