Arsenal 1-2 FK Ostersunds: Graham Potter’s braves narrowly fail to create Europa League history
PUBLISHED: 21:59 22 February 2018 | UPDATED: 23:45 22 February 2018
Danny Loo Photography 2018
The impressive footballers of FK Ostersunds narrowly failed to create one of the greatest shocks in the history of European football against Arsenal in the Europa League at the Emirates on Thursday night – after winning 2-1 only to lose the tie 4-2 on aggregate.
Graham Potter’s courageous Scandinavians gave the Gunners the shock of their lives after going 2-0 up in North London through an own goal from Calum Chambers on 22 minutes followed by a second by Ken Sema 60 seconds later.
The home side who took a 3-0 lead into the second leg calmed frayed nerves after pulling a goal back through Sead Kolasinac just after half-time to see them through – but it was Potters braves that won the plaudits on a cold night in North London.
Arsene Wenger was true to his word and picked a relatively strong side against the Swedes of Ostersund.
Jack Wilshere captained the Gunners while Henrik Mkhitaryan, Danny Welbeck and Hector Bellerin all started with young guns Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson sat on the bench no doubt expecting to come on with the tie comfortably won.
But sport and football in particular has a nasty habit of puncturing hubris and after a shapeless opening 22m inutes Graham Potter’s side took the lead through Chambers own goal.
The former Southampton man spoke ahead of the game saying he wanted to use the match to show what he could do – yet in his wildest dreams he can’t have envisaged what happened 60 seconds later as Ken Sema doubled the score to make it 2-0.
Thoughts raced to improbable second leg results in European history as Anderlecht’s 5-1 win over Read Madrid in the 1980s was reversed by a 4-0 victory in the Bernabeu, along with AC Milan beating Deportivo La Coruna 4-1 only for the Spainiards to win through 4-0 in a passionate Riazor.
The difference at a disgruntled Emirates was that those second leg results were after poor first leg results – whereas Arsenal took a three goal lead into their home tie.
For the rest of the half the vibrant body language from the Swedes was in direct contrast to the plodding uncertainty Wenger’s men exuded on and off the pitch – as his number two Steve Bould and the Frenchman had about as much dynamic chemistry as a failed school science experiment.
As the clock ticked down towards half-time you felt the home side were simply conducting an exercise in damage limitation, happy to take the boos at the whistle at 2-0 down, in order to regroup during the interval.
At his peak it would have been instructive to have been a fly on the wall during Wenger’s team-talk during the break, but nowadays at least a decade on from his heyday it would have been difficult to envisage an inspiring speech from the Frenchman to rouse his troops – not that he was ever given to such chest-beating displays even in his pomp.
Whatever he said his team grabbed a goal moments into the second half through Sead Kolasinac with a right-footed shot after the Swedes failed to deal with a Bellerin cross.
The strike quelled any dissention in the ranks as Potter’s men were not going to score four goals at the Emirates to win through – even if their first half performance was simply magnificent.
As the clock ticked down and Arsenal continued to infuriate and disappoint in equal measures the best that could be said was that at least they were through to Friday’s draw.
Afterwards Wenger said his side ‘were not at the races, were complacent and not focused’. How right he was even if another dreadful performance similar to tonight’s in this competition would surely see them eliminated.
Potter on the other hand was magnanimous, offering a charitable assessment of Wenger’s Arsenal. He also hailed his men saying he was ‘proud’ of their efforts.
After their magnificent victory he had every right to be.
Wenger on the other hand can be anything but – certainly not with a tough assignment against the might of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to come this weekend in the Carabao Cup final.