Valencia manager Marcelino doesn't think Arsenal deserved to beat his side 3-1 in Thursday's UEFA Europa League clash, and Gunners boss Unai Emery has said the semi-final is "50-50" after the first leg.
Valencia took an early lead through Mouctar Diakhaby, but Alexandre Lacazette scored twice in the first half before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added what may prove to be a crucial third in the 90th minute. Marcelino told reporters after the match he felt the scoreline flattered the hosts:
"We are disappointed that we did not manage to achieve a better result. In my opinion, I think Arsenal did not deserve such a big result. I think they have been clinical in their chances, as their first two chances finished in goals.
"I think we played at such a high tempo, and it was a pity that we conceded that goal (Arsenal's third) that nobody was expecting because in my opinion we had the game under control, but that goal in injury time put us in a more complicated position."
Diakhaby's goal ended as one of only three efforts on target recorded by the visiting team, while Arsenal had six in total.
Lacazette netted twice in nine minutes to turn the deficit around and brought his goal tally for the season up to 18 (U.S. only):
Aubameyang has encountered some criticism for failing to show up in the bigger fixtures for Arsenal, but he was composed at the back post to strike a hammer blow against Los Che (UK only):
Marcelino added Valencia "cannot stop believing" if they're to reach the final. There, they could face either Chelsea or Eintracht Frankfurt, who drew 1-1 in Germany on Thursday in their first-leg clash.
Valencia have a host of good players among their cast but don't possess the same spending power as Arsenal, a difference Marcelino also pointed out following the first-leg loss, per journalist Layth Yousif:
Emery, 47, managed Valencia from 2008 to 2012 and spent further time competing against them as Sevilla coach from 2013 until 2016.
The Spaniard has some insight into the challenge ahead and said the two teams remain evenly matched despite Arsenal's two-goal advantage, per the club's official website: "Our idea and my thoughts now is that it continues to be very difficult in the second leg away. It's 50/50 and it's a good result at home in the first leg, but the second leg is going to be very difficult and maybe different. I consider that for two teams it's 50/50."
Emery encouraged his players and fans to be proud of such an encouraging first-leg result but said "the second leg is going to be very difficult."
The Arsenal boss is looking to win a fourth Europa League crown, three years after clinching the last of his three trophies with Sevilla:
The Gunners' away form has been a concern in recent months, and Emery will be wary of the fact his side have conceded three goals in each of their last two road games, against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City.
Valencia, though, have now dropped three games in a row in all competitions and lost 1-0 to Eibar on Sunday in what was their first home defeat since November. They play Huesca away on Sunday ahead of Thursday's second leg.
Arsenal face Brighton & Hove Albion at home on Sunday.