Arsenal scrape past Ostersunds

Arsenal scrape past Ostersunds
From ESPN - February 22, 2018

LONDON -- Three quick thoughts from the Emirates after Arsenal reach the round of 16 of the Europa League despite a 2-1 home loss to Ostersunds, going through 4-2 on aggregate.

1.Arsenal avoid a monumental fiasco

What was supposed to be a formality turned into a near-fiasco for Arsenal.

Minnows Ostersunds threatened to make this one of the most embarrassing evenings in Arsenal history as they struck twice in two first-half minutes before Sead Kolasinac steadied the ship with a thumping volley just after the break.

Arsenal held a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead from the first leg but somehow managed to turn this into a nervy evening thanks to a first-half performance that was shockingly poor even in light of the many previous low-water marks this team has produced lately.

The tiny Swedish club, playing their first season in Europe, struck twice in two minutes as Hosam Aiesh forced an own goal from Rob Holding and Ken Sema finished off a clinical move in quick succession.

It produced a kind of "is this really happening" atmosphere at the Emirates, with the Arsenal players looking shell-shocked and failing to produce anything resembling a proper performance. Playing against a team from a town of 50,000 and with an annual budget of 5 million (before the influx of Europa League money), Arsenal did not produce a single scoring chance in the opening 45 minutes.

One can only imagine what Arsene Wenger told his players at half-time, but whatever it was, it worked. Kolasinac made the entire Emirates draw a sigh of relief just minutes after the restart when the ball fell to him in the box and he calmly hammered home a strike with his right foot.

That settled the nerves for the Gunners, and suddenly David Ospina's penalty save toward the end of the first leg became hugely important, as Ostersunds would have needed two more goals to turn things around.

They came close to a third on a couple of occasions, with substitute Dino Islamovic turning one effort just wide of the post, but Arsenal held firm. Still, Ostersunds became just the second team to win at the Emirates this season -- joining Manchester United.

So while it is Arsenal who will march on, only the Swedish club will view this as a night to remember.

2.Arsenal's second string fails to impress... again

Arsene Wenger said before this game that Arsenal would be "absolutely stupid" to think they could cruise through this second leg. And yet all 11 players in blue -- as the away kit was used at home -- seemed to believe they could do just that.


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