Arsenal signed the Europa League clash against Sporting Lisbon – but that was the last thing anyone thought.
Instead, the thoughts were firmly connected to Danny Welbeck, who sees another heavy road back to fitness after a nauseating ankle injury in the first half.
It was one of those injuries that you had never seen before. One that you can not erase from memory, no matter how hard you try.
Danny Welbeck suffered an injury to his ankle and the game was delayed for some time when he came down on a stretcher
The Arsenal looked forward in severe discomfort after uncomfortable landing and received oxygen to cope with the pain
Jeremy Mathieu (left) was sent late in the game because he was Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang on the heels and was clean
The defender had played brilliantly, but had to go after deliberately eliminating the Arsenal striker, who missed the free kick.
The official guidance of Arsenal last night was Welbeck & # 39; s injury was assessed. But you did not have to be medically trained to realize the seriousness of the Welbeck injury. We look at months, instead of weeks.
Given Welbeck's participation in the last six months of his contract and the gruesome photos of his ankle, you wonder if we'll ever see him in an Arsenal shirt again.
But that is a debate for a very different day. Right now you just hope that Welbeck is completely recovered.
Arsenal qualifies for the knockout stages – and extends their undefeated run to 15 games – with this result it does not seem relevant in such cruel circumstances.
And although their action against the Portuguese did not appeal to the imagination, not losing games became a habit for Arsenal.
It is a custom that Unai Emery will hope that his team will not fall soon, because his side was in this position in the knockout phase of the Europa League.
CONTEST FACTS, GROUP TABLE AND MATCHZONE
Cech 6; Lichtsteiner 6.5 (Maitland-Niles, 74), holder 6.5, Sokratis 6.5, Jenkinson 6.5 (Kolasinac 60); Guendouzi 7, Ramsey 6.5; Smith Rowe 6.5, Mkhitaryan 6.5, Iwobi 6; Welbeck 6 (Aubameyang 30, 6)
Unused subs: Martinez, Torreira, Maitland-Niles, Nketiah
Ribeiro 6; Gaspar 6, Coates 6, Mathieu 6.5, Acuna 6.5; Nani 6.5, Miguel Luis 6, Guedlj 6, Bruno Fernandes 6.5; Montero 6 (Bas Dost 69), Diaby 6 (Cabral 23)
Unused subs: Salin, Jefferson, Pinto, Mane, Petrovic.
Bookings: Gaspar, Luis, Acuna
Referee: Gediminas Mazeika (LTU) – 6
The heatmap of Matteo Guendouzi shows another busy performance of the midfielder.
Medical staff waved on the stretcher when they predicted the damage to the former Manchester United
Matteo Guendouzi was one of the teammates who were visibly shocked by the injury to Welbeck in the first half
The English international received a warm welcome when he was slowly carried to the sidelines and through the tunnel
Emery had a largely understuct-side – Henrikh Mkhitaryan the only survivor of the team that started Saturday's draw against Liverpool.
As far as Sporting is concerned, the biggest change they have made since the first match in Lisbon two weeks ago is the resignation of manager Jose Peseiro last week – interim coach Tiago Fernandes takes charge of the confrontation of last night.
The opening exchanges reflected those of the collision in Portugal, both sides offer little quality.
The first goalmouth action arrived in the 17th minute when Sebastian Coates cleared the line after Jeremy Mathieu, the central defending partner, led the low cross by Matteo Guendouzi to his own goal.
But then came that moment that we all forgot. It arrived in the 24th minute that Welbeck followed heavily after a harmless clash with Sebastian Coates.
You knew immediately that it was serious because of the reaction from Welbeck, the striker looked tormented when he writhed with pain on the ground.
The medical department arrived quickly, the Arsenal star needed oxygen.
Concern about the faces of his teammates – especially Guendouzi, who looked spooky – said it all.
The English international was finally stretched out to a standing ovation after five minutes of treatment, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang replacing him.
But what a miserable happiness, just a few hours after his call in the England squad, for the attacker who finally seemed to have overcome the nightmares about the injuries that have so far destroyed his career in Arsenal.
Early indications were that Welbeck had sustained a serious injury to his right ankle – gruesome images of the right foot from the forward direction in the wrong direction, which underlined the severity of the injury.
Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang came from the bank and tried to revive the fortunes of Arsenal in the last third
Stephan Lichsteiner (right) takes a dive under the challenge of Nani after a robust race for possession
Sebastian Coates was a busy man for Sporting Lisbon when the Portuguese side deeply deepened to drop Arsenal
The players watched as a particularly errant head flew far over the target in the first 45 minutes
The star of Gabon got a fierce resistance when Sporting performed a disciplined performance at the back in London
The horrific injury of Welbeck slowed down every momentum – and there was not much – the game was built up.
Indeed, halftime could not come fast enough – especially for Arsenal players who wanted to stay informed of their afflicted teammate.
It was Welbeck who scored the winner against Sporting two weeks ago. Here, his teammates wanted to win the game for him.
But they required a clear improvement in the second half after this largely everyday opening of 45 minutes.
And within 40 seconds the Gunners improved their matte first half, which shows that Aubameyang defeated the bar with a long shot from Mkhitaryan's cross.
Sporting also showed more intentions – Abdoulay Diary saw his acrobatic scissor kick volley blocked by Carl Jenkinson before Aubameyang came close again and tapped the side net in the 58th minute.
But just like the game in the Portuguese capital, Arsenal had clear cut opportunities that were hard to find. The performance of Arsenal against Liverpool on Saturday was lively and full of enthusiasm.
This was anything but. Emery's attempts to convince his players told his own story. He was far from satisfied, he has expected more from his team in recent weeks. Alex Iwobi tried his luck from a distance only to see how he did his best to sail over the bar.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery was active in his technical field while instructing his side with his usual verve
Similarly, the daring attempt by Jenkinson to a 30-yard volley went terribly wrong, his effort ended behind him.
And if Arsenal & # 39; s night in terms of injuries could not get worse, Lichtsteiner stopped in the 72nd minute with a suspicious right hamstring injury.
The defender of Switzerland was eventually replaced by Ainsley Maitland-Niles as the game drew towards a goalless draw.
Sporting was reduced to 10 men in the final phase, when Mathieu got a straight red card to seize Aubameyang and the striker was about to reach the goal.
But Arsenal could not pay their numerical advantage because the game ended.