Twitter Reacts as Arsenal Edge Past Olympiacos to Continue 2020 Unbeaten Run

​Arsenal just about did enough to topple Olympiacos in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 tie on Thursday evening, narrowly beating the Greek side 1-0 away from home.

While it was far from a vintage display from the Gunners, Arsenal achieved a great result, with the only goal of the game coming from Alexandre Lacazette’s late strike.

Before the opener, Arsenal had been fairly uninspiring, with Olympiacos having the better of the chances, and looking likely to hold on for an important home draw. But the visitors had other ideas, netting a vital away goal, and they could have added to their one-goal cushion with just minutes remaining, but failed to capitalise on some good late chances.


Let’s take you back to the start, though.

Olympiacos started the game at a ferocious tempo, putting relentless pressure on an initially shaky-looking ​Arsenal backline. In fact, within four minutes the hosts could have had a double, but some poor finishing let the Gunners off the hook.


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​​Alexandre Lacazette proved similarly wasteful at the other end not long afterwards, smashing his close-range effort wide following a characteristically flowing Arsenal move. 

A big chance. A big miss.

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​​Both sides looked promising going forward, with both Olympiacos and Arsenal seemingly edging closer to breaking the deadlock with every passing minute.

Who would budge first?


​​Arsenal’s hoard of Twitter bots were desperate for a little more creativity in the second half, calling on two familiar faces…

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​​But, despite the introduction of Dani Ceballos and Nicolas Pepe shortly after the restart, Arsenal continued to look pretty toothless going forward, and were actually looking less and less likely to open the scoring.

Much to the annoyance of the Arsenal fans.

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​​Eventually, Lacazette found his shooting boots, sweeping home a lovely Arsenal move – courtesy of a gorgeous cross from young full-back Bukayo Saka.

Exactly what the doctor ordered.

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​​That was enough for the Gunners in the end, who take a slim but vital one-goal lead back to the Emirates for the return leg. And, just as importantly, it’s a crucial away goal.

It’s fair to say that the Arsenal supporters were fairly pleased with the result, even if the performance was somewhat underwhelming.​​



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And has anyone mentioned that the Gunners are still unbeaten in 2020.

Oh, they have…



I think we get it.

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Olympiacos 0-1 Arsenal: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Gunners Take Narrow Advantage Into Second Leg

Arsenal edged a tight encounter with Greek outfit Olympiacos in the first leg of their Europa League last 32 tie on Thursday evening, with Alexandre Lacazette’s goal gifting the visitors a 1-0 win.

While the Gunners were favourites heading into the match, their hosts could well have taken an early lead, Mathieu Valbuena stinging Bernd Leno’s palms after just two minutes, before Georgios Masouras headed over from close range moments afterwards. Arsenal themselves could have had an opener just before the 20-minute mark, but Lacazette blasted wide following a lovely move.

There was little more than half-chances for either side as the half progressed with neither team managing to find a breakthrough before the half-time whistle. Arsenal had controlled proceedings for the most part, and were edging closer towards a crucial opener – and away goal.


The second half struggled to ever get out of second gear, with both sides regressing and looking fairly flat-footed going forward. Ousseynou Ba had the first real opportunity after the break – 25 minutes in to the second half – but his header was well saved by Leno, despite the flag eventually going up, while the German also kept out a well-hit free kick from Valbuena.

Eventually, Arsenal found a crucial opener, Lacazette tapping in Bukayo Saka’s wonderful low cross, and putting some gloss on a relatively lifeless Arsenal performance ten minutes before the final whistle. The Frenchman could have doubled his tally minutes afterwards, but he was unable to round off a sweeping Arsenal counter-attack, while Sokratis’ header from the resulting corner ricocheted off the bar.

But the visitors were unable to add to their slim advantage, taking an important cushion and away goal back to north London for the return leg.


Olympiacos

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Sa (6); Elabdellaoui (6), Semedo (6), Ba (6), Tsimikas (5); Bouchalakis (5), Camara (5), Guilherme (5); Masouras (6), El Arabi (6), Valbuena (7)

Substitutes: Fortounis (5), Lovera (5)


Arsenal

Key Talking Point

​Arsenal would have been aiming to build on their impressive 4-0 victory over Newcastle last weekend, while recognising that the Europa League may be their most realistic avenue in to the ​Champions League next season – something that was evidently apparent to Mikel Arteta with his strong team selection.

The Gunners did well to weather the early storm from their energetic hosts, although at times it was luck rather than judgement that saw them through the opening stages unscathed. Arsenal continued to grow in confidence with every passing minute, but seemingly found it difficult to break through an unwavering Olympiacos defence, despite controlling the game with relative ease.

Gabriel Martinelli,Ruben Semedo

While Arsenal’s defensive improvements under Arteta were clear for all to see on Thursday night, there was a serious lack of spark in the final third, with the Spaniard’s new-look system somewhat stifling the Gunners’ capacity to carve open their hosts. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang didn’t look comfortable on the right flank, while Lacazette offered little in the way of end product or creativity – despite scoring Arsenal’s only goal of the game.

Eventually, persistence and a little bit of flair from Saka paid off for the visitors, who will sneak a one-goal cushion back to the Emirates in a week’s time. However, it was far from a convincing showing from the Gunners, who rode their luck at times and put in a fairly timid and uninspiring performance, despite stealing a great result.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Leno (7); Sokratis (6), Mustafi (5), Luiz (6), Saka (8*); Guendouzi (5), Xhaka (5), Martinelli (5), Willock (5), Aubameyang (5); Lacazette (6)

Substitutes: Ceballos (6), Pepe (6), Maitland-Niles (N/A)


Bukayo Saka 

FBL-EUR-C3-OLYMPIAKOS-ARSENAL

It certainly wasn’t a vintage Arsenal display, with many household names underperforming on their return to European action. As a result, the best of a pretty average bunch was young Saka at left-back, who dealt with the attacking threat of Olympiacos with relative ease.

The starlet looked confident in possession as well, spearheading a number of deadly looking Arsenal attacks down the left-hand side – showcased perfectly by his sumptuous cross that provided the assist for Lacazette’s goal.






Looking Ahead

Olympiacos travel to PAOK for a top-of-the-table clash in the Greek Super League this weekend, while Arsenal play host to ​Everton this Sunday in the ​Premier League. 

The two sides will meet again at the Emirates for the return leg next Thursday evening.


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Club Brugge 1-1 Man Utd: Report, Ratings and Reaction as Martial Spares United’s Blushes

Manchester United toiled to an uninspiring 1-1 draw at Club Brugge in the first leg of their Europa League last 32 tie on Thursday night. 

Antony Martial capitalised on a mistake to snatch an away goal and level the scores after Dennis had deservedly put the home side in front. 

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Brugge started brightly and it wasn’t long before they had the lead. A long punt from keeper Simon Mignolet led to Dennis lobbing the ball over the hapless Sergio Romero and into an empty net.

But then it was Brugge’s turn to be sloppy, Maxim De Cuyper threw the ball straight to Martial who raced from the halfway line and calmly slotted the ball beyond Mignolet.

The Frenchman almost struck his second before the interval, but his rasping shot from outside the area cannoned off the woodwork and away to safety.

In truth, the second half delivered very little in terms of goalmouth action. The introduction of Bruno Fernandes injected life into United but they were unable to find a winner and the teams head into the second leg all square. 


CLUB BRUGGE

Player Ratings​

Starting XI: Mignolet (6), Mata (6), Mechele (5), Deli (6), Kossanou (7), Rits (6), Balanta (5), De Cuyper (5); Tau (6); Vanaken, (6), Dennis (7*)

Subs: Vormer (6), De Ketelaere (5) , Schrijvers (6)


MANCHESTER UNITED

Key Talking Point

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s multitude of changes were the talk before kick off, and those squad players handed their chance didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory.

It was clear for all to see that United simply do not have the numbers when it comes to quality in depth, their shortage of players is alarming and their squad is wafer thin.


Without messers Fred and Bruno Fernandes, United looked flat, devoid of any spark or creativity. 

Lingard and Pereira offered very little going forward, with a lack of guile and invention making it easy for Brugge to mark the pair out of the game.

The visitors enjoyed large spells of possession but it was all too slow and pedantic, there was no injection of urgency and Brugge were able to pick United off easily.

United were severely lacking in attacking options, only showing a threat when pouncing on the home side’s mistakes.

Then with the introduction of Fernandes and Fred, the game suddenly kicked up a notch, but it was too little too late and Solskjaer’s master plan to rotate simply hadn’t worked.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Romero (6), Lindelof (6), Maguire (6), Shaw (5): Dalot (6), Matic (6), Pereira (5), Williams (5); Lingard (4), Mata (5); Martial (7*)

Subs: Ighalo (6), Fred (6), Fernandes (7)


Antony Martial

Very often the scapegoat but very much United’s saviour here. He was Ole’s get-out-of-jail card in a turgid affair as he showed a real coolness to bag a crucial away goal.

SOCCER EL 1/16 FINALS CLUB BRUGGE VS MANCHESTER UNITED

Restricted to very little up top, he made the best of it and pounced on a defensive lapse of concentration to nick his side an equaliser in the first half.




Capitalising on the mistake, he showed lightning speed and strength to shrug off the attentions of a defender before finishing with real composure.

The Frenchman was unfortunate not to have a second before half-time when he saw his long-range shot come crashing back off the post. 

In the second period, he was the man looking to make things happen for Solskjaer’s men, but a few promising bursts came to nothing.

Perhaps surprisingly he was substituted early by Solskjaer, seeing as he was the one creative spark, but then again given his lack of service Martial was most likely relieved to see his number go up.


Looking Ahead

League leaders Club Brugge face a tricky home match against third-placed Charleroi on Sunday. 

As for Ole’s troops, they welcome relegation-threatened Watford to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday. 


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VIDEO: Ryan Babel Hilariously Mocks Allan Nyom’s Play-Acting in Europa League Clash

I hate simulation. You hate simulation. Everyone hates simulation. 

Watching players writhe around on the ground when you know full well there’s nothing wrong with them is one of the great scourges of the modern game. 

Normally we just have to grin and bear it, biting our tongues as the supposedly stricken player comedically limps off the pitch – only to make a miraculous recovery seconds later. 

What the public yearns for is a hero. Someone who can expose this nonsense for what it is and rid the beautiful game of play actors once and for all. 

Ryan Babel, Allan-Romeo Nyom

Well, on this evening’s evidence 90min might have just found one in Ryan Babel. 

With just under an hour on the clock in Ajax’s Europa League meeting with Getafe, Babel was involved in a petty off the ball incident with Allan Nyom. The former ​Liverpool man lost out on a 50/50 challenge and then sneakily tripped the Cameroonian up as he tried to stride away. 

The contact was… minimal, to say the least, but it still made Nyom exhibit a series of body contortions akin to some sort of bizarre interpretive dance. 

The defender thrusted himself down to the floor, mouth gaping, before executing a textbook forward roll followed by a less impressive barrel roll.

Babel came bounding over seeking justice, and he got it in the form of his brutal takedown of Nyom’s antics. 

First, the Dutchman mirrored his opponent’s drop to the ground before pulling out some much more eye-catching barrel roles. Not content to leave it there, Babel then mimicked a crying child right in Nyom’s face before copying the full-back’s fake limp. 

The Ajax forward may have got a yellow card and Getafe did go on to clinch the game in a surprising 2-0 win, but in our eyes there was only one winner in Madrid this evening. 

Arsie, Sir Ryan Babel.


For more from Matt O’Connor-Simpson, follow him on Twitter!

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Crystal Palace vs Newcastle Preview: TV Details, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

Crystal Palace take on Newcastle United in a Premier League clash at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon.​

The Eagles will be looking to turn away from a period of poor form as statistically they have been one of the worst teams on home soil in 2019/20, winning only four and scoring just ten goals.


The Toon travel to London in 13th position and a point above their hosts. A resurgence is needed for each party after a bout of rough form, but all is to play for as both sides hope to battle for a top half finish in the ​Premier League.


Where to Watch

When Is Kick Off? Saturday 22 February​
What Time Is Kick Off? ​15:00 (GMT)
Where Is It Played? ​Selhurst Park
TV Channel/Live Stream? ​Palace PlayerHD Live/Match of the Day (Highlights)
Referee? ​Peter Bankes

Team News

​Crystal Palace have been in the wars and their injury list is rather ​extensive to say the least. 

With Cenk Tosun (hamstring), Jeffrey Schlupp (hip), Mamadou Sakho (hamstring), James Tomkins (hamstring) and, breathe, Martin Kelly (calf) all set to miss out on starts on Saturday, Roy Hodgson faces a tough team selection.

The visitors are suffering with even worse fortunes in regard to injury problems, as they currently have nine players out. Yes, nine.

Federico Fernandez,Jonjo Shelvey

Jetro Willems (knee) leads a host of defenders who are unavailable as Ciaran Clark (ankle), Paul Dummett (tendon), Javier Manquillo (hamstring) and Emil Krafth (ankle) are all sidelined.

Meanwhile, attacking trio ​Andy Carroll (hip), Dwight Gayle (hamstring) and Yoshinori Muto (hip) are all unlikely to feature, as top scorer Jonjo Shelvey remains a doubt with a hamstring problem.


Predicted Lineups

Crystal Palace ​Guaita; Ward, Cahill, Dann, Van Aanholt; Milivojevic, McCarthy, McArthur, Zaha, Ayew; Benteke.
Newcastle ​Dubravka; Yedlin, Lascelles, Fernandez, Lejeune, Rose; Bentaleb, Longstaff, Almiron, Saint-Maximin; Joelinton.

Head-to-Head Record

You might expect that ​Newcastle would dominate proceedings between the two sides over the years, and you’d be right in that assumption. What you wouldn’t expect however is just how in control they’ve been.

Out of 46 meetings between each team since 1907, the Magpies have won a staggering 27, with Palace victorious on just ten occasions. The remaining nine ended as draws.

Steve Bruce

In recent times this trend has continued as the Eagles have only managed two wins over Newcastle in last decade, losing seven and drawing four. That’s pretty dire.

The reverse fixture ended 1-0 to Steve Bruce’s side at St. James’ Park in December.


Recent Form

​Look away now if you want to avoid disappointment. Things in this section aren’t at all pretty if you’re a Palace or Newcastle fan.

Here goes. There has been just one victory between the two sides in the Premier League in 2020, with the Toon snatching a surprise 1-0 win over ​Chelsea last month and draws galore seeing both teams suffer in the bottom half of the table.

Isaac Hayden

Newcastle have conceded a league-high 28 away goals this season, and Palace have scored the fewest home goals in the competition with 10. It’s safe to say that there’s not much hope if you’re looking for a goal-fest on Saturday.

Here’s how they’ve fared in their last five:

Crystal Palace Newcastle
​Everton 3-1 Crystal Palace (08/02) ​Arsenal 4-0 Newcastle (16/02)
Crystal Palace 0-1 Sheffield United (01/02) ​Oxford United 2-3 Newcastle (04/02)
Crystal Palace 0-2 Southampton (21/01) Newcastle 0-0 Norwich (01/02)
​Manchester City 2-2 Crystal Palace (18/01) Newcastle 0-0 Oxford United (25/01)
Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal (11/01) Everton 2-2 Newcastle (21/01)​

Prediction

Both sides have struggled through a disastrous patch of form of late at both ends of the field. Neither team has any real confidence and they’ve both been unlucky when it comes to injuries.

Roy Hodgson,Steve Bruce

Many would hope this dull spell would come to an end this weekend but on paper this is a game that is fairly likely to end in a bore draw. Sorry, everyone.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-0 Newcastle


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