Porto outgun Arsenal as UCL enters last 16, Napoli and Barca draw

February 22 – Arsenal slumped to a 1-0 defeat away to Porto, conceding an injury-time strike from Wenderson Galeno to complicate their round-of-15 life in the Champions League.

The London club arrived in outstanding form in Portugal with five Premier League wins on the spin, scoring 21 goals in the process, but a wonder goal from Galeno, raises the spectrum of another second-round exit for Arsenal.

The Gunners are aiming to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010. They were beaten at the last-16 stage on seven consecutive occasions between 2011 and 2017 – current manager Mikel Arteta was involved five times as a player – and did not qualify for the Champions League again until this season.

The English controlled the pace, kept the ball and seemed to put in a mature performance away from home but somewhat timid they had a major let-off in the 21st minute when Galeno failed to convert a double chance inside the box. With Arsenal defenders ball-watching, Galeno smashed a shot off the left upright. The ball ricocheted back to him and with the entire goal gaping, he somehow fired wide. He had little reaction time but even so the miss was astonishing.

In the 93rd minute, the Brazilian winger went on to win the first leg with a terrific right-footed strike which more than made up for his double-miss. A sloppy cross-pass from Gabriel Martinelli had given away possession. It was the story of the match. Porto got closest with Arsenal dominating possession but often imprecise in execution against a well-organised opponent. Arteta’s side had plenty of set pieces, but not a single shot on target during the match.

The defeat was a reality check for Arsenal and a reminder that knockout football in the Champions League can be unforgiving. The Londoners will have their work cut out in the return leg on March 12.

“We have to manage much better,” said Arteta in a flash interview. “We cannot win with the way we handled the ball on three occasions in deep areas. If you want to be in the quarter-finals you have to beat your opponent and this is what we will have to do at the Emirates now. We lacked threat. We lacked aggression, especially with the ball in the final third. We can do better.”

In the night’s other Champions League tie, Napoli and Barcelona drew 1-1.

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