Arsenal’s draw against CSKA Moscow in Russia last night ensured their passage into the UEFA Europa League semi-finals, although it wasn’t as straightforward as many fans were expecting. They went behind on the night, the Russian side were piling on the pressure, and for a while, it looked like the Gunners may follow in the footsteps of Barcelona earlier in the week. Thankfully for Arsenal fans, Wenger’s side were able to show some serious growth for the first time in what feels like forever.
From the word go it was clear that Arsenal weren’t going to be able to stamp their authority on the game, at least, not like they did in the first leg. The 4-1 result at the Emirates seemed like a million miles away, as the atmosphere in Russia clearly started to get to the players. It wouldn’t have been all too surprising to see them cave under the pressure, especially given the tempo of the game from the first whistle onwards.
Fedor Chalov and Kirill Nababkin scored either side of half-time to bring the hosts to within just one goal of taking the away goal advantage in the tie, with Aleksandr Golovin’s free-kick and Sergei Ignashevich shot both serving as reminders that it’d only take one more moment of brilliance to knock Arsenal out of the Europa League and effectively end their season.
But with 15 minutes remaining, Arsenal defied the expectations of this bizarre week in European football by putting CSKA to the sword. First, Danny Welbeck continued his resurgence, and then Aaron Ramsey’s phenomenal form continued as he slotted home the equaliser in injury time to bring the final aggregate score to 6-3.
While Moscow weren’t the strongest side in the competition by any means, that isn’t what matters here. Arsenal always seem to cave under the pressure of another team’s momentum, and there’s no shame in admitting that. Plenty of high profile sides can struggle in a two-legged tie if they don’t get off to a good start, and the fact that they were able to rally shows just how much this competition means to them.
While they may only be trying to win it in order to enter the Champions League, it’s still great to see some determination and passion – because that’s what they’ll need to do in order to win the fans over in the next few months.
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