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Arsenal 0-0 Sporting Lisbon: Gunners reach Europa League knockout stages as Danny Welbeck sustains horrifying

STALEMATE

Unai Emery’s men remain unbeaten in 15 matches but the game was overshadowed by Welbeck’s injury which saw him leave the pitch on a stretcher wearing a leg brace

Arsenal have made the last 32 of the Europa League after playing out a goalless draw at home to ten-man Sporting Lisbon.

However, the game that was massively overshadowed by a potentially serious injury to Gunners and England forward Danny Welbeck.

The 0-0 draw was enough to send Unai Emery’s men through in a game which saw Sporting’s Jeremy Mathieu dismissed for a late scything challenge on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the forward burst through on goal.

Mathieu received his marching orders for this challenge on Aubameyang

Mathieu received his marching orders for this challenge on Aubameyang

But it was Welbeck’s injury just before the half hour mark that was the main talking point from a largely forgettable Emirates Stadium encounter.

The 27-year-old has overcome serious issues in the past, missing large chunks of his career with knee problems.

This latest setback comes on the day he was named in Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad for the forthcoming games against the United States and Croatia.

He was carried off the pitch following an awkward landing after he had beaten Sporting defender Bruno Gaspar to a header and it was clear he was in need of help.

Welbeck left the pitch on a stretcher wearing a leg brace

Welbeck left the pitch on a stretcher wearing a leg brace

The incident knocked the wind out of Arsenal’s sails but Welbeck’s replacement Aubameyang hit the crossbar as the visitors offered very little in terms of an attacking threat.

But a 15th game unbeaten for Unai Emery’s side at least assured them of European football after the turn of the year with two group matches left to seal top spot.

Arsenal enjoyed plenty of possession from the outset although the hosts were reduced to long-range efforts from Carl Jenkinson, again starting in the unfamiliar role of left-back, and youngster Emile Smith Rowe.

Mathieu almost gifted Arsenal the lead as he diverted Matteo Guendouzi’s low cross towards his own goal before the ball was swept away.

The game was then stopped for several minutes after Welbeck contested a header with Gaspar before appearing to suffer an ankle injury on landing.

He required treatment on the pitch, including an oxygen mask and a leg brace, before he was taken off on a stretcher to be replaced by Aubameyang.

Arsenal’s players, most notably Guendouzi, were clearly moved by seeing their team-mate in pain and the half did not really flow again.

After the break, Aubameyang hit the crossbar within the opening minute as he turned Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s cross onto the frame of the goal.

The visitors offered little going forward

The visitors offered little going forward

The Gabon striker was certainly Arsenal’s liveliest attacking outlet and he sent another shot just wide of Renan Ribeiro’s goal as Arsenal looked to snatch the lead.

Alex Iwobi also failed to hit the target with a decent chance as Sporting’s interim coach Tiago Fernandes turned to prolific forward Bas Dost from the bench in the hopes of leaving north London with three points.

Emery readied young striker Eddie Nketiah for his first appearance of the season but was forced to instead bring on Ainsley Maitland-Niles as Stephan Lichtsteiner pulled up injured and had to be replaced.

The game continued without any real chances of note, Mkhitaryan stabbing an Iwobi cross towards goal before Aubameyang saw an effort bravely blocked.

Unai Emery’s men are unbeaten in their last 15 matches as they reach the Europa League knockouts with two games to spare

Unai Emery’s men are unbeaten in their last 15 matches as they reach the Europa League knockouts with two games to spare

Aubameyang thought he had a late one-on-one to settle the contest but was fouled by Mathieu, who was shown a straight red card for the cynical trip.

That was the last of the meaningful action as Arsenal failed to score for just the second time under Emery – but it will be Welbeck’s injury that dominates the fall-out.

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