Despite losing by a goal to nil in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie, Arsenal managed to keep their cool and turn things around at the Emirates Stadium, knocking out FC Porto from the competition on penalties.

The match kicked-off with either side getting their fair share of chances, but were not able to convert until Leandro Trossard slotted the ball home to break the deadlock in the 41st minute of the first half after a beautiful pass from Martin Ødegaard. 

The goal brought both teams back on level terms with the aggregate score being 1-1, leaving the game open with both clubs having all to play for in the second half and extra-time.

However, the extra 30 minutes were still not enough to split both teams meaning the tie was to be decided by the dreaded penalty shootouts. This was the first UEFA Champions League knockout match to go to a penalty shootout since the 2016 final between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid.

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The Gunners won the shootout 4-2 with all their attempts finding the back of the net; Ødegaard was the first to step up and he fired the ball straight into the top right corner, before Kai Havertz, Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice also converted their spot kicks to keep the pressure on the visiting team.

Porto’s Aquino Pepê and Marko Grujić also scored their penalty kicks while Wendell and Galeno both had their efforts parried by David Raya with the latter’s being the last kick of the game.

The Emirates, which had an electrifying atmosphere right from the first kick of the match erupted as players and coaches immediately ran around with joy to celebrate an important win for the club.

David Raya

Gunners coming-of-age

Victory over the Portuguese side means Arsenal have reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2010 (which was also a home win against Porto), ending a run of seven consecutive Last-16 exits from the competition.

In a post match interview, Mikel Arteta revealed:

    “I’m so happy, I’m so proud, especially for the club. It’s been 14 years not achieving the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and that’s a long time. It shows you how difficult it is to do it.

“A big credit to the boys for what they have done today and to everybody that turned up in the stadium and from their homes, bringing that incredible energy into the stadium to help us win the game.
“It was very difficult to get constant momentum in the game, with the way they play, credit to them. We knew that that was going to be the case, we had to be really patient and emotionally controlled, and wait for the moments. We were going to have moments and, in those moments, we had to put them away and we’ve done that.”

The Gunners have been quite convincing in their UCL run this season, winning five games, losing two and drawing one, while scoring 17 and conceding just five goals. They also have a perfect clean sheet record in home games.

According to recent records, all the teams that have managed to knock out Porto from the Champions League in the last five years have all gotten to the final.

Arsenal might as well go all the way, but we will just have to wait until Friday 15th of March to see what the draw for the final rounds of the competition brings. For the moment, they can be proud of a remarkable achievement as they also compete with Manchester City and Liverpool for Premier League honours. 

Olabode David Goodwill
March 13, 2024
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