Baku beckons for Arsenal and Chelsea. Or maybe Zenit or Celtic

Sporting? I don’t think so.

Sporting Lisbon parked the bus.

Plenty of strategic fouling and time-wasting.

They executed a plan of damage limitation in a match that was always gonna be Much Ado About 0-0.

Sporting have only won twice in eleven European games in England and they’ll never win their third if they carry on playing so negatively. Having been a big fan of Portuguese football for 30 years, I was dismayed.

In 25, Danny Welbeck landed awkwardly after heading a Lichtsteiner cross from the right. It immediately looked like a bad  injury and there was a long delay while the striker received treatment on the pitch before being carried off on a stretcher.
Aubameyang came on in 32.

In 71, when Lichtsteiner sprinted into attack and his right hamstring went. He was replaced by Maitland-Niles.

I’m not gonna pretend I enjoyed this game.

Arsenal’s attacks were too obvious to produce a goal. Indeed, I began to think that by televising matches as dull as this we are killing football.

Centreback Matthieu, the ex-Barcelona defender, was sent off for taking out Auba on the edge of the box in 87.

So Arsenal have qualified for the Round of 32 with two games to spare. Zenit look quite lively and Salzburg have a 100% record after four games.

But the best teams in this competition might be Chelsea, Arsenal, Leverkusen and Celtic.

Olivier Giroud scored the only goal of the game in Belarus when he headed in Emerson’s left wing cross to the near post in 53. A very slick finish. A goal that belonged in the Champions League.

Final score : Bate Borisov 0 Chelsea 1.

Arsenal v Wolves will be much more entertaining than last night. That game is at 4.30 on Sunday.

Man City v Man United kicks off at the same time and Citeh are scoring six goals almost every week. Raheem is on fire and dainty David Silva has become a goal-machine.

The Europa Final of 2019 is in Baku, where Arsenal have already played against Qarabag. I hope they don’t play Chelsea, who are still unbeaten under Sarri.


ARSENAL:  Cech; Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Holding, Jenkinson; Guendouzi; Mkhitaryan, Ramsey, Iwobi, Smith-Rowe; Welbeck

Subs: Martinez, Mustafi, Kolisinac, Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Nketiah, Aubameyang

SPORTING: Renan; Bruno Gaspar, Coates, Montero, Mathieu, Acuna, Nani(captain), Gudelj, Miguel Luis, Fernandes, Diaby

Subs: Salin, Pinto, Jefferson. Dost, Mané, Cabral, Petrovic

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