Bukayo Saka’s early equalizer saw Arsenal score an important away goal in a 1-1 draw with Benfica in their 32nd Europa League game in Rome.
The first half was cautious at Stadio Olimpico and Arsenal should have entered the break ahead, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang shot right off with only goalkeeper Helton Aleixo Leite to beat.
But the game got lively after the break and Benfica received a penalty as soon as Emile Smith Rowe was penalized for handball. The top scorer and captain of the Europa League, Pizzi (55), was dispatched to the site.
However, their lead only lasted a few minutes as Arsenal hit back almost instantly. Cedric Soares, who started his career with Benfica’s fierce rivals Sporting Lisbon, shot a cross which was returned home by Saka. VAR checked the goal for offside – Arsenal were flagged 10 times during the game – but he held on.
The final draw of the last 32 is well prepared for next Thursday’s second leg in Athens, with Arsenal holding a slim advantage with the away goal.
Arsenal is back Sky Sports Sunday, as they host Premier League leaders Manchester City; kick off 4.30 p.m. Benfica will face Farense in the Primeira Liga, also on Sunday.
The duo will then travel to the Karaiskakis Stadium in Greece – home of Olympiakos, which knocked out Arsenal from the Europa League last season – for the second leg next Thursday.