Arsenal Progress into Europa League Last 16 Despite Shock Loss to Ostersund

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 22, 2018

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Hosam Aiesh of Ostersunds FK scores the first Ostersunds goal during UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between Arsenal and Ostersunds FK at the Emirates Stadium on February 22, 2018 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Arsenal overcame a massive scare in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, as they were stunned 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium by Ostersund but still progressed into the last 16 of the competition 4-2 on aggregate.

The Gunners, having cruised to a 3-0 win in the first leg in Sweden, found themselves 2-0 down at half-time after the underdogs netted twice in a remarkable 69-second spell thanks to an own goal from Calum Chambers and a thumping finish from Ken Sema.

Arsenal responded well at the start of the second period, and Sead Kolasinac capitalised on a defensive error in the 47th minute to halve the deficit on the night. They were unable to grab an equaliser, though, giving the visitors a famous win but not one wide enough to qualify.

With pockets of empty seats around the Emirates and a rotated Arsenal side on the field, the only atmosphere created early on came from the swathes of visiting supporters.

Their team responded to that noise and put together a couple of neat passing moves. They were warnings the Premier League side didn't recognise, as the visitors set the tie alight with a stunning 69-second spell with 22 minutes gone.

Ostersund tore into Arsenal in the opening period.
Ostersund tore into Arsenal in the opening period.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

After some appalling Arsenal defending, Hosam Aiesh escaped down the right and flashed a cross-shot across goal; a retreating Chambers diverted it into his own net.

Initially it felt like a token goal for the away fans, but the visitors were straight back on the attack after the restart. Having previously been outmanoeuvred, this time the Arsenal defence was bullied, as Sema charged his way past Chambers before ramming a left-footed finish home.

As noted by James Benge of the Evening Standard, there was chaos in the Gunners defence, as the Emirates was plunged into silence:

There were no real chances carved out by the hosts before the interval, with those inside the stadium growing increasingly restless and Ostersund players showing more confidence.

While boos of derision greeted the Arsenal players at the half-time whistle, Amy Lawrence of the Guardian paid tribute to the manner in which the Swedes acquitted themselves:

Arsenal needed a response after the break to stem any hopes of an awful elimination from the competition, and manager Arsene Wenger would have been delighted to see his side immediately get on the front foot.

Kolasinac is congratulated after his goal for Arsenal.
Kolasinac is congratulated after his goal for Arsenal.Michael Regan/Getty Images

Hector Bellerin's cross was missed by Ronald Mukiibi, allowing Kolasinac time to fire home from eight yards. The Emirates breathed a collective sigh of relief, with another Ostersund goal no longer enough to take the tie into extra time.

Per OptaJohan, the left-back has been pretty prolific in his debut season at Arsenal:

To Ostersund's credit, they didn't crumble after Kolasinac's goal and continued to play some bright football in the final third. Mukiibi missed the chance to make amends for his mistake and potentially set up a nervy finish when he was slow to react as a loose ball fell to him in the area.

As time ticked on, though, hopes of a miracle started to dwindle and the contest started to fizzled out against the backdrop of an emptying Emirates.

In the end, the Gunners should have grabbed an equaliser at least, with Danny Welbeck squandering a number of opportunities to prevent a humiliating loss.

Paddy Power summed up a frustrating night for the striker before the final whistle:

Ahead of Sunday's Carabao Cup final with Manchester City, this type of encounter and performance would have been the last thing Wenger wanted. The manner in which his team crumbled defensively in the first period was all too familiar.

The draw for the next round will take place on Friday; but if Arsenal have ambitions of going deep into the competition, a massive improvement will be needed.

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