Starting XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Ramsey, Wilshere, Xhaka, Ozil, Lacazette, Welbeck
Subs: Cech, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Nketiah, Iwobi, Mkhitaryan
There will be no goodbye trophy for Arsene Wenger after his battling Arsenal side went down 1-0 to Atletico Madrid courtesy of Diego Costa’s strike in first half stoppage time.
The Gunners toiled and toiled as they tried to find an equaliser that would take the tie to extra time, but there was a serious lack of quality in the face of the home side’s masterful defending.
Over two legs, we played well. But you can’t miss chances at this level. And you can’t lose concentration as we did for both tonight’s goal and Griezmann’s in the first-leg.
Arsene Wenger pondered how Atletico might approach this game. He thought they might sit back and hit Arsenal on the break but from kick-off they were quick to press in packs. Sitting on an away goals victory didn’t seem to be on the home side’s agenda.
We were panicked into giving away a corner inside a minute. It was headed clear but when the ball was returned to the box, Ospina had to dive over Koscielny to punch it away. We looked nervy.
Chances for both teams followed. Ozil fed Lacazette on the right and his fantastic cross had to be chested away for a corner. Nothing came of it.
Atletico struck back. Monreal was outmuscled by Costa and through one on one with Ospina. He fluffed his lines shooting wide.
Then disaster for the Gunners. Captain Koscielny fell to the turf with nobody near him. He was in agony, screaming and pounding the turf, seemingly holding his ankle. At the break, it was confirmed he’d torn his Achilles; the problem he’d been nursing for years coming back to haunt him at the worst time. Wenger signalled for a substitution immediately as the stretcher was sent on for the centre-back. Awful luck. On came Calum Chambers. Wilshere took the armband.
As was the case in the first-leg, we did well keeping our width and spreading the play. Atletico were pushed back, if only our crosses had been a bit more accurate. Bellerin and Monreal were both guilty of failing to find a striker.
We continued to probe. Ramsey fed Lacazette who rounded Oblak but he ran out of space and couldn’t get a shot off. The ball was worked back to Ozil but his cutback was blocked. Not long after, Monreal burst through the left channel but he couldn’t control Ramsey’s deft pass.
The home fans went quiet. It was noticeable. Costa started snarling at the Italian referee. In the stands, Simeone, banned from the dugout, looked very concerned.
We looked in control before an awful Ospina pass, which went out for a throw, signalled a change in momentum. The home side sensed an opportunity to pressure.
Koke’s volley had Ospina clambering across his goal before the effort bounced wide. Within a minute, Griezmann fired inches wide on the turn from a tight angle through a crowded box. The Metropolitano found its voice again.
Four minutes before the break, Wilshere lost his head and charged into Gabi. He was shown a booking. The referee had been spoiling for a chance to reach for his pocket.
It looked like we might make it to the break with a clean sheet. Then two minutes into stoppage time, added for Koscielny’s injury, we conceded. Chambers’ attempt to clear a long ball by Oblak was won in midfield by Partey. The ball dropped to Griezmann who sprung Costa inside Bellerin and the former Chelsea striker, so often our nemesis, smashed past Ospina. It would be hard to write a worse finish to the half. (1-0)
Could we find a goal? Did we have the gumption to wrestle back control of the game? Griezmann didn’t want to let it happen.
The Frenchman pumped up the crowd at every opportunity, leading from the front with his pressing and high tempo play. The Wanda delighted in his attitude.
Gabi picked up a booking for a cynical foul on Welbeck. Classic shithousery from a side well-practiced in such behaviour. The resulting free-kick, having been lofted into the box, was cleared to Wilshere whose shot in turn dropped to Ramsey. Time stood still as the Welshman swung a leg at the ball but it just wouldn’t come down in time and he thighed it wide.
There was no respite in the action. In front of the Atletico Ultras, Chambers did brilliantly to dig out Mustafi and stop Costa from grabbing his second. Sloppy play gifted Griezmann another chance to break. He danced forward, Monreal snapped at him. He got nearer the box. Monreal snapped again. This time he made contact and earned a booking. The Frenchman picked himself up, dusted himself down and curled the free-kick wide.
Back came the Gunners. Ozil bundled his way through the Atletico defence, he took his time, looked up, but saw his cross blocked. The German, free again in the box, with another cross. Once more it was cleared. Xhaka took matters into his own hands, firing at goal from 30-yards. Oblak got down low to push it round the post. Mustafi headed over the corner.
The pulsating action continued. Griezmann, just yards out, controlled and shot. Chambers blocked and the ball was claimed by Ospina. Awesome from Calum.
Wilshere made way for Mkhitaryan. Ramsey took the armband. The Armenian’s impact was almost immediate as he controlled a ball on the edge of the box and fired just over Oblak’s bar. Needing a goal, Monreal pushed further forward. He made a great run to head back a lofted Xhaka pass but Welbeck wasn’t near enough to capitalise.
It’s fair to say we were living very dangerously at this point. In attempting to push forward we were increasingly open at the back. 14 minutes remaining and Xhaka’s last-ditch challenge denied Griezmann. A brilliant sliding tackle. He finally timed one! Costa and Mustafi then had a coming together after the striker chucked the ball away. Both went in the book. A Costa goal and booking. How predictable. Thankfully, the ugly prick soon signalled his need to go off. On came Fernando Torres, another player who has caused us plenty of pain in the past.
Arsene Wenger, on the occasion of his 250th European game, crouched on the touchline, lips pursed. Little wonder. Inside the final few minutes and the home side were doing their utmost to run down the clock deep inside the Gunners half. Ospina beat away a Torres effort.
As the game reached stoppage time we desperately worked the ball forward, but we just couldn’t find the quality to unpick the Atletico lock. They really are masters at the art of defending deep and sponging pressure. Fair play to them. We only had one shot on target all night.
And then it was over. All over. 22 years of Arsene will end at Huddersfield on 13 May. Our dreams of a trip to Lyon done.