Video: Aaron Ramsey seals Arsenal’s spot in the Europa League semi-finals
RB Salzburg pull off incredible comeback to knock out Lazio while Atletico and Marseille also progress
CSKA Moscow 2 Arsenal 2 (3-6 aggregate)
Arsene Wenger has conceded his Arsenal side were “surprised” by the intensity of CSKA Moscow. It’s a strange admission considering the Russians had nothing to lose in front of their home fans in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final.
After being thrashed 4-1 at the Emirates last week, CSKA were only going to play one way against the Gunners. Yet for all their offensive ambition, the Russians didn’t score their first goal until five minutes before the break when Fedor Chalov fired home after Kirill Nabakin’s header was blocked by Petr Cech.
Nabakin made it 2-0 to the Russians five minutes after the break, leaving them requiring one more goal to draw level on aggregate. Yet Arsenal, who didn’t manage a shot on target until 70 minutes, slowly began to stir to life, inspired principally by Danny Welbeck and Mohamed Elneny. The pair combined on 75 minutes for Welbeck to pull one back for the visitors and then Aaron Ramsey made it 2-2 on the night in stoppage time.
The result means Arsenal are in their first European semi-final for nine years. Even though it’s only the Europa League it means their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season remain alive.
“We were in trouble in the first half,” said Wenger. “It was a good response from us after the break. After moving to a back five we were more stable and didn’t concede as many chances.”
Asked who he fancied in today’s semi-final draw, Wenger replied: “Everybody speaks about Atletico Madrid, they look strongest on paper from now on, but you must recognise as well the result that Salzburg has achieved.
“I am from France. Marseille are in there as well which is always a difficult place to go. Maybe it’s better I don’t wish for anybody and just wait for the draw.”
Meanwhile in a week when coming back from the dead has been de rigueur in European football, Red Bull Salzburg pulled off possibly the most famous fightback of them all.
The Austrian side were trailing Lazio 4-2 from their first-leg in Italy. Their hopes of reaching the last four looked to be over when Lazio scored ten minutes into the second half. Then, in an extraordinary climax, Salzburg scored four times – including three in four minutes – to seal their place in the semi-finals.
There were fireworks, too, in the south of France, where Marseille staged a comeback against RB Leipzig.
The German side were defending a 1-0 lead from the first-leg and got off to a flier in the Velodrome, going one up (2-0 on aggregate) after just 70 seconds when Bruma found the back of the Marseille net.
The French fought back with three goals but then Leipzig scored again through Jean-Kevin Augustin. That would have seen them progress on away goals had they not leaked two more goals to Marseille as the game finished 5-2 to the hosts.
The fourth side into today’s draw for the Europa League are Atletico Madrid, who reached the semis with a 2-1 aggregate win over Sporting Lisbon.