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Mikel Arteta hails ‘magic night’ as Arsenal beat Porto on penalties

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 13 Mar 2024

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Mikel Arteta hailed a “magic night” at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal beat Porto 4-2 on penalties to reach first Champions League quarter-final in 14 years.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Portugal, a goal from Leandro Trossard just before half-time levelled the tie late in the first half, but there Arsenal’s momentum stalled as they failed to wrap the game up inside 90 minutes.

After a nervous extra-time it took heroics from goalkeeper David Raya, saving twice in the shoot-out, to put the hosts into the last-eight for the first time since Arsene Wenger’s team faced Barcelona in 2010.

“A magic night,” said Arteta. “We expected a really tough opponent. It’s very difficult to generate momentum and that’s credit to them.

“It’s a huge experience for us. We had to do it as well through penalties. Credit to David who had some difficult moments to start but showed incredible determination and stood up and got rewarded.”

Arsenal, roared on by a home support determined to drag their team through, began with urgency befitting of their predicament, but they suffered a frustrating first half.

Not until four minutes before the break did the second leg tip their way, and the goal was brilliantly made by Martin Odegaard, receiving the ball from Trossard 30-yards out and taking four Porto players out of the game with a superb slide-rule pass.

There on the end of if was Trossard, skipping in off the left and sliding it cooly past Diogo Costa for 1-0.

Odegaard thought he’d given Arsenal the lead in the tie when he tapped into an empty goal in the second half, only for his effort to be ruled out for a foul by Kai Havertz on veteran defender Pepe. A furious Arteta was booked for his protests.

Gabriel Jesus came off the bench and almost settled things with his first touch, goalkeeper Costa spreading himself well and deflecting his effort wide, before Odegaard shot inches past the post after the goalkeeper beat out Bukayo Saka’s shot.

Porto’s threat on the break lingered throughout the ensuing extra 30 minutes, though penalties had long looked the likeliest destination.

So it proved, and it was goalkeeper Raya who was the hero, saving from defender Wendell and first-leg match-winner Galeno to send Arsenal through.

“For (the players) to do it when the club hasn’t done it for 14 years, I tell you it will be a boost,” said Arteta. “The margins are so small.

“I see how much they want it, how much they try and they are able to sacrifice anything to win. When you play like this at the end good things are going to come your way.

“It’s another big step (in the season), especially as a club. For seven years we haven’t been in this competition and for 14 years we haven’t got this far. That tells you the difficulty of it. We want more and we’re going to go for it that’s for sure.

“It’s the first time that I’ve done it in the Champions League. I try to learn every day, get advice and that’s why you have good people around you, great coaches around you as well to help you and make you better.”

Porto boss Sergio Conceicao was involved with an altercation on the pitch with Arteta at the end of the game, and gave a terse explanation of what was said.

“During the game, (Arteta) turned to the bench and in Spanish – it must be a Spanish coach thing because it was the same thing with (Pep) Guardiola – he insulted my family,” he said.

“In the end I told him to pay attention because who he insulted is no longer with us, and to worry about coaching his team, because due to individual quality he has an obligation to do more and better.”

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