Benfica 1-1 Arsenal: Saka gives wasteful Gunners slight edge

By Sports Desk February 18, 2021

Bukayo Saka's away goal gave Arsenal the upper hand as they drew 1-1 with Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie at Stadio Olimpico.

Pizzi became the leading goalscorer in the competition this season with seven when he put Benfica in front from the penalty spot early in the second half after Emile Smith Rowe handled.

Arsenal only had themselves to blame for being behind after some poor finishing, but Saka levelled just over two minutes after Pizzi struck at the neutral venue in Rome on Thursday.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was particularly wasteful, but the Gunners have the edge ahead of the second leg at Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens next week.

Arsenal were unchanged for the first time since September 2018 and Aubameyang, who scored a hat-trick in the win over Leeds United on Sunday, inexplicably missed a glorious chance to put them in front 17 minutes in.

Hector Bellerin looked to have a put an opening goal on a plate for his captain when he crossed from the right, but the unmarked Aubameyang somehow failed to hit the target with his left foot.

Benfica offered little going forward but Granit Xhaka was relieved to get away with a terrible pass just before the break, Dani Ceballos coming to the rescue by blocking a Diogo Goncalves cross with two unmarked men in red shirts waiting for a tap-in.

Saka scuffed a poor shot wide after Benfica were opened up by Bellerin and Ceballos, but it was Benfica who drew first blood from the penalty spot 10 minutes into the second half.

Pizzi coolly slotted home from 12 yards out after Smith Rowe handled Goncalves' cross, but the Premier League side hit straight back with an equaliser from Saka.

Martin Odegaard picked out a surging Cedric Soares with an incisive pass and the full-back's cross was tucked home by England winger Saka from close range.

Aubameyang fired wide again when he should have hit the target and the fit-again Kieran Tierney returned off the bench before Benfica substitute Everton fired off target against the run of play.

Striker Aubameyang took too long when he had another clear opportunity to put Arsenal in front as neither side could fashion a winner.

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