Europa League: Antoine Griezmann sucker punch floors Arsenal

As goodbyes go it wasn't supposed to be quite like this.Ten-man Atletico Madrid battled to a 1-1 draw against ...

Posted: Apr 27, 2018 8:04 AM
Updated: Apr 27, 2018 8:04 AM

As goodbyes go it wasn't supposed to be quite like this.

Ten-man Atletico Madrid battled to a 1-1 draw against Arsenal in the first leg of their Europa League semifinal in Arsene Wenger's final European night in north London.

Everything seemed to be going to Wenger's script with eight minutes to go -- "1-0 to the Arsenal," as their famous chant goes -- but a late equalizer from Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann canceled out Alexandre Lacazette's earlier headed effort, leaving the tie in the balance for the second leg.

It was a heated affair from the kickoff, with Atletico defender Sime Vrsaljko sent off in the ninth minute, shortly followed by his manager Diego Simeone -- sent to the stands for dissent.

The Europa League remains Wenger's final chance to claim a trophy with Arsenal, and would be his first European silverware in his 21-year reign at the club, having lost the 2006 Champions League final to Barcelona.

READ: Wenger to leave Arsenal at end of the season

READ: 'Wenger Out' campaign finally gets its wish

Arsenal will travel to the Spanish capital for the return leg of the semifinal on May 3 knowing they have to score if they are to reach the final in Lyon on 16 May.

The fireworks at the Emirates started early, with Croatian defender Vrsaljko booked just 75 seconds into the game and shown a second yellow card seven minutes later for a rash challenge on Lacazette.

Minutes after the sending-off, the visitors lost their manager too, as Simeone -- tipped by some to succeed Wenger at Arsenal -- was sent to the stands for his furious remonstrations towards the referee from the touchline.

Misjudged clearance

Despite the man advantage, Arsenal struggled to break through Atletico's defensive wall in the first hour of the game, spurning chance after chance.

But 15 minutes into the second half, Wenger's side found the back of the net from French striker Lacazette, who made up for missed opportunities earlier in the game with a powerful header past Atletico keeper Jan Oblak.

The Spanish side, meanwhile, had offered little in the way of clear-cut chances, until Griezmann pounced on a misjudged clearance from Arsenal captain Laurent Koscielny, rounding the keeper and drawing the match level.

It could prove a crucial away goal for Atletico going into the second leg, where a clean sheet at home will see them through to a third European final in five years.

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