There was always going to be a risk going up against a side like Olympiakos in the second leg when you only have a one-goal lead from the first game, but even with that being the case, Arsenal did themselves absolutely no favours as they were knocked out of the UEFA Europa League by the Greek side.
Arsenal looked timid from the word go with the weight of the occasion clearly getting to them – even though they’ve been able to reach the semi-finals and final of this competition in the last two years.
Shocker in North London
Pape Abou Cisse gave Olympiakos a deserved opener in the second half which eventually sent things into extra time, as the Gunners nervously went in search of what they were hoping would be the winner.
Then, with seven minutes remaining in extra time, they thought they’d got that winner as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang popped up with a sensational scissor-kick to give them the 2-1 advantage on aggregate.
Alas, Arsenal let their guard down at the wrong time and invited more pressure from Olympiakos, with a crazy whipped ball into the box being defended incredibly poorly by the hosts as Youssef El Arabi poked the ball in to send his team through to the next round.
It seemed like Arsenal were going to win it seemingly for a second time when the fall fell kindly to Aubameyang in the dying seconds of the game, only for the popular forward to drag his shot wide to the shock of the Emirates faithful.
Olympiakos manager Pedro Martins was notably delighted with the result.
“It’s a historic night for Olympiakos. We deserved this qualification not only for these two games against Arsenal, but also for our spirited performances in Europe throughout the season regardless of the results.
“We were determined, we believed we could qualify and we made it. Tactical intelligence, effectiveness, inner strength, courage – it all weighed in this success.
Jubilation for Olympiakos
“We never lost our shape and played intelligently. The aim is just to carry on in this competition.”
Mikel Arteta, on the other hand, knows that he needs to go back to the drawing board after a desperately disappointing night.
“It hurts a lot. We had a lot of intentions in this competition,” Arteta said.
“We were in control but conceded a set-piece to put us in a difficult position. We created a lot of chances and got ourselves in a good position. If you concede four goals from set-pieces in two games it makes it very difficult.”
Arsenal now know that their main focus needs to switch back to the Premier League as they go in search of a place in the top five – providing that Manchester City’s Champions League ban stays in place.
Olympiakos, on the other hand, are riding a wave of momentum that they’ll hope they can take through to their Round of 16 tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers. With the first leg being in Athens, they’ve got a real chance to lay down a solid marker for the return fixture at Molineux.