Antoine Griezmann Snatches Draw for 10-Man Atletico Madrid Against Arsenal

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2018

Atletico's Antoine Griezmann celebrates after scoring the first goal of his team during the Europa League semifinal first leg soccer match between Arsenal FC and Atletico Madrid at Emirates Stadium in London, Thursday, April 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

It's advantage Atletico Madrid at the halfway point of their UEFA Europa League semi-final with Arsenal, as a late Antoine Griezmann equaliser saw the visitors overcome an early red card to draw 1-1 at Emirates Stadium.

The match got off to an explosive start, as Sime Vrsaljko received two yellow cards in the first 10 minutes and was sent off. Atletico boss Diego Simeone was then sent to the stands for his protestations, as the Gunners dominated a scoreless first period.

After 61 minutes, Atletico's resolve finally caved, as Alexandre Lacazette rose highest to thump a header past Jan Oblak. However, with eight minutes to go and with Arsenal seemingly in total control, an error from Laurent Koscielny allowed Griezmann to steal in and score a crucial equaliser.

The two teams will meet again at the Wanda Metropolitano on Thursday for the second leg.

        

Vrsaljko and Simeone See Red

Atletico are renowned as one of the most aggressive teams in European football. But in the initial stages of this encounter, they overstepped the mark.

Vrsaljko was booked after just 75 seconds after he poleaxed Jack Wilshere. The full-back didn't learn from that early error either, and he was rash again in the 10th minute, catching Alexandre Lacazette heavily.

French referee Clement Turpin pulled out a second yellow, and Atletico were dealt an immediate setback. As Liam Twomey of ESPN FC noted, it was a brave decision:

Unsurprisingly, Simeone was not happy on the sidelines, and when one of his players was felled, he lost his cool, gesticulating angrily at the referee and stepping on to the perimeter of the pitch. Turpin banished him from the sidelines

Per journalist Paul Brown, there was potential for this one to get even more fiery given the personnel on the Atletico bench:

       

Arsenal Fail to Make Dominance Count

The Gunners were the dominant side throughout the first period and hit the post from a Lacazette volley before the red card.

For a spell after Vrsalkjo's dismissal, they piled it on and pinned Atletico back in their own box. Oblak was on hand for Atletico to keep out Wilshere and Danny Welbeck, while Nacho Monreal fizzed a volley just wide.

Still, despite their theatrics, credit needed to go to Atletico, too, who defended tremendously in the first period despite their man disadvantage. BBC Sport's Andy West paid tribute to their defensive work:

Atletico could have even gone in ahead. Griezmann was always a threat, and after being thwarted by David Ospina, the goalkeeper produced an even better save minutes later, keeping the Frenchman's stinging strike out on the cusp of half-time.

        

Lacazette Breaks Deadlock

Atletico continued to defend mightily after half-time, but on the hour mark, the immense pressure from the Gunners finally told.

It was a tremendous goal, too. Wilshere produced a perfect cross from the left, and Lacazette found space at the back post, planting his header into the ground and past a despairing Oblak.

As Sky Sports Statto noted, the former Lyon man loves playing at the Emirates:

Arsenal were swarming all over Atletico after that opening goal, as the Spanish side dropped deeper and deeper. The strain of playing with 10 men for so long in this one appeared to be taking a toll.

            

Griezmann Gets Atletico Level

Just when Atletico seemed to be settling for a 1-0 loss, Griezmann turned the tie on its head.

A long punt forward saw the forward grapple with his compatriot Koscielny to get to the ball first. The latter fluffed his clearance, allowing the Atletico man a run at goal, and while Griezmann saw his first effort stopped, he impudently tucked home the rebound to give the visitors a massive boost.

As noted by journalist Tom Williams, it was typical Arsenal in recent years under manager Arsene Wenger:

The goal gave the visitors a second wind, and although they settled back into their deep shape late in the game, they didn't look like shipping another.

The result means Arsenal face a massive task if they are to qualify, as Atletico haven't conceded a goal at home since January; in La Liga, they've only let in four all season at the Wanda. 

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