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Arsenal boss Arteta hails ‘magic night’ | ‘We’re where we want to be’

Mikel Arteta hailed a “magic night” at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal beat Porto 4-2 on penalties to reach first Champions League quarter-final in 14 years.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Portugal, a goal from Leandro Trossard just before half-time levelled the tie late in the first half, but there Arsenal’s momentum stalled as they failed to wrap the game up inside 90 minutes.

After a nervous extra-time it took heroics from goalkeeper David Raya, saving twice in the shootout, to put the hosts into the last-eight for the first time since Arsene Wenger’s team faced Barcelona in 2010.

“A magic night,” said Arteta. “We expected a really tough opponent. It’s very difficult to generate momentum and that’s credit to them.

“It’s a huge experience for us. We had to do it as well through penalties. Credit to David who had some difficult moments to start but showed incredible determination and stood up and got rewarded.”

Arsenal, roared on by a home support determined to drag their team through, began with urgency befitting of their predicament, but they suffered a frustrating first half.

Not until four minutes before the break did the second leg tip their way, and the goal was brilliantly made by Martin Odegaard, receiving the ball from Trossard 30 yards out and taking four Porto players out of the game with a superb slide-rule pass.

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Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard highlighted the role the fans played in their Champions League Round of 16 win over Porto

There on the end of if was Trossard, skipping in off the left and sliding it cooly past Diogo Costa for 1-0.

Odegaard thought he’d given Arsenal the lead in the tie when he tapped into an empty goal in the second half, only for his effort to be ruled out for a foul by Kai Havertz on veteran defender Pepe. A furious Arteta was booked for his protests.

Gabriel Jesus came off the bench and almost settled things with his first touch, goalkeeper Costa spreading himself well and deflecting his effort wide, before Odegaard shot inches past the post after the goalkeeper beat out Bukayo Saka’s shot.

David Raya saved twice in the shoot-out
Image: Raya saved two penalties in the shootout

Porto’s threat on the break lingered throughout the ensuing extra 30 minutes, though penalties had long looked the likeliest destination.

So it proved, and it was goalkeeper Raya who was the hero, saving from defender Wendell and first-leg match-winner Galeno to send Arsenal through.

“For [the players] to do it when the club hasn’t done it for 14 years, I tell you it will be a boost,” said Arteta. “The margins are so small.

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Paul Merson reacts to Arsenal’s win over Porto in the Champions League and praises Raya’s performance

“I see how much they want it, how much they try and they are able to sacrifice anything to win. When you play like this at the end good things are going to come your way.

“It’s another big step [in the season], especially as a club. For seven years we haven’t been in this competition and for 14 years we haven’t got this far. That tells you the difficulty of it. We want more and we’re going to go for it that’s for sure.

“It’s the first time that I’ve done it in the Champions League. I try to learn every day, get advice and that’s why you have good people around you, great coaches around you as well to help you and make you better.”

Raya: It means everything

David Raya saved two penalties in the shootout as Arsenal beat Porto to reach the Champions League quarter-finals
Image: Raya springs to his left to send Arsenal through

This was only the second time Arsenal were taken to extra-time in a Champions League match, and first since the 2008-09 last 16 against Roma, which they also progressed from after a penalty shootout.

“Obviously it’s a great feeling, especially for me personally – my first time in the Champions League and the first time in a long time club has got to the quarter-finals,” Raya told TNT Sports.

“We’ve been working a lot on penalties this year because on a night like this you need to be good and the hard work has paid off. It’s a great night.

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Merson reacts to Leandro Trossard’s opener for Arsenal against Porto in the Champions League

“I should have saved three, but I’m over the moon to save two and get through to the quarter-finals.

“Porto made it so difficult over there and here. But we scored the goal that we needed and it went to penalties. Obviously, mentally it’s tough but the team played really, really well, we kept a clean sheet, scored the goal and went to penalties.

“It means everything. You play football for these kind of nights. Over the moon and I’m going to celebrate and enjoy the night.”

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Merson felt the decision to disallow Arsenal’s second goal against Porto was harsh

“You are very nervous. You are hoping for the best but you know it’s a bit of a lottery. We did our preparation yesterday and the day before just in case and it really helped so credit to the goalkeeping coaches as well.

“We have started to create an unbelievable energy in the stadium and we are all pushing to get it done, and together we’ve done it. Unbelievable. That’s where we want to be. We have been patient and this is where we want to be.”

Bukayo Saka, who scored the third penalty, was thrilled to get through.

David Raya is mobbed by his Arsenal team-mates after his penalty saves in the shootout
Image: David Raya is mobbed by his team-mates

“I’m buzzing, we’re going through and I’m so proud of the team,” he said. “To win on penalties is great for the spirit. I prepare myself, practising penalties so I was more than ready. Just pleased to see it go in.”

England winger Saka immediately set his sights on the potential title decider at Manchester City next.

“Right now we’re top of the league and in the quarter-finals of the Champions League so that gives us confidence that we can go to the Etihad and get a result,” Saka added.

Arsenal end their round of 16 hoodoo – Opta stats

Martin Odegaard and Ben White celebrate with David Raya after the latter's penalty heroics
Image: Odegaard and Ben White celebrate with Raya
  • Arsenal have progressed to the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League for the first time since 2009-10, ending a run of seven consecutive last 16 eliminations in the competition.
  • This was the first UEFA Champions League knockout match to go to a penalty shootout since the 2016 final between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid.
  • Porto have been eliminated from each of their last eight major European knockout ties against English opposition since knocking Manchester United out of the 2003-04 UEFA Champions League last 16.

What’s next?

Sky Sports WhatsApp channel
Image: Sky Sports WhatsApp channel

Arsenal must wait nearly three weeks for their next game after the postponement of their Premier League home fixture against Chelsea due to the Blues’ FA Cup participation this weekend, which is then followed by an international break.

The Gunners return to action with a huge title clash against Manchester City as Mikel Arteta’s side go to the Etihad Stadium on March 31; kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports.

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