Emery stays ‘positive’ as Arsenal are battered in Brittany
Home side's dramatic comeback after Sokratis sending-off leaves Gunners facing an uphill task in the Europa League
07 March, 2019 — By Steve Barnett
Unai Emery: ‘Rennes won the first 90 minutes, but now we’ve got another 90 minutes to come at home with our supporters, next Thursday’
Last 16, First Leg
RENNES 3 (Bourigeaud 42, Monreal own goal 65, Sarr 88)
ARSENAL 1 (Iwobi 4, Sokratis sent off 41)
ARSENAL have a mountain to climb to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League after they were battered by Rennes in Brittany tonight (Thursday).
The Gunners got off to a dream start at Roazhon Park when Alex Iwobi’s cross nestled in the back of the net after only four minutes. But the game was turned on its head just before the break when Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off, sparking a scintillating fightback from the home side, who ended up romping to a 3-1 victory.
Even in the eyes of defeat, Arsenal boss Unai Emery remained upbeat, however, as he insisted that it was only half-time in the last-16 showdown.
“Rennes won the first 90 minutes, but now we’ve got another 90 minutes to come at home with our supporters, next Thursday,” he said.
“We want to think positive, and will be confident when it’s 11 against 11.”
The Gunners took the lead in fortuitous fashion. Iwobi swapped passes on the left wing with Nacho Monreal before playing in a low cross which crept beyond goalkeeper Tomas Koubek and into the back of the net via the base of the far post.
Shkodran Mustafi almost got on the scoresheet on the half-hour mark as he sent a shot whistling inches wide of the post.
But 60 crazy seconds just before half-time changed the game. Sokratis, already carrying a yellow card following a clumsy challenge on former Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa, brought down Ismaila Sarr on the edge of the area. A second booking was quick to follow for the Greek international, who could have few complaints as he left the field. Benjamin Bourigeaud smashed the resulting free-kick against the wall, but when the ball bounced favourably back into his path the midfielder unleashed an unstoppable thunderbolt into the top corner.
With a man advantage, Les Rouges et Noirs laid siege on the Arsenal goal, with Petr Cech pulling off a string of fine saves to keep the scores level.
The goalkeeper could do little to stop Rennes taking the lead just after the hour mark when Monreal turned Mehdi Zeffane’s cross into his own net.
And Arsenal’s miserable night was wrapped up two minutes from time when Rennes top scorer Sarr planted a powerful header past Cech, leaving Emery’s side up against it when the two sides meet again at the Emirates Stadium next Thursday.
RENNES: Koubek, Zefane, Da Silva, Mexer, Bensebaini, Grenier (Gelin, 90), Andre, Hunou, Bourigeaud (Lea Siliki, 73), Sarr, Ben Arfa
Substitutes not used: Badiashile, Doumbia, Johansson, Lauriente, Del Castillo
ARSENAL: Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Sokratis, Monreal, Xhaka, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Ozil (Ramsey, 70), Iwobi (Guendouzi, 52), Aubameyang (Kolasinac, 79)
Substitutes not used: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Suarez, Nketiah