Arsenal 1, Atletico Madrid 1
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted his team had blown a huge chance to seize a place in the Europa League final after they conceded a late equaliser at home to 10-man Atletico Madrid.
The Gunners enjoyed a numerical advantage for 80 minutes and led through Alexandre Lacazettes second-half header but proved unable to stretch their advantage despite bombarding the visitors goal with 27 shots.
Atleti, who also saw coach Diego Simeone sent to the stands early on, snatched a valuable away goal eight minutes from time when striker Antoine Griezmann capitalised on a series of defensive mistakes.
Arsenal must score in the second leg against an Atletico team who have kept 11 clean sheets at home in a row if they are to reach the final and keep alive hopes of ending Wengers 22-year reign on a high.
“One-nil is a perfect result at home. It was just down to us after that not to make a mistake,” said Wenger.
“We had 20 shots on goal. Against Man United we had 33 shots on goal and lost the game. Its a story we have seen before. The whole thing went wrong in the end.
“The only advantage is we know exactly what we have to do over there. We have nothing to lose and we have to play to win the game.
“For us the task is clear. But of course you come out tonight with a bitter taste because we had the chances to be in the final. Thats where the regret is.”
Arsenal provided flags for fans and cranked up the pre-match music for Wengers final European home game and his team delivered a greatest hits set: scintillating attacking play, a cathartic goal followed by more missed openings and the inevitable sucker punch, brought about by their own calamitous errors.
The Gunners started on the front foot and received encouragement when Atleti right-back Sime Vrsaljko was sent off in the 10th minute for a second booking. Livid boss Simeone followed him down the tunnel moments later for berating referee Clement Turpin.
Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak was forced into saves by Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck as the hosts probed, but two Griezmann snap-shots on the counter offerer reminders of the resilience and nous that has taken the visitors to two Champions League finals in the last four years.
Fifteen minutes of attack versus defence followed the interval, punctuated when Lacazette finally made one of Arsenals forays pay. The former Atleti target leapt higher than Lucas Hernandez when Wilshere clipped a cross and nodded down past Oblak for his fourth goal in three games.
Lacazette tried to force a second while tails were up, drilling a ball across the goalmouth and heading narrowly wide from a corner, but the next goal would be an Arsenal creation of another kind.
Just as against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final, they were exposed by a simple long ball. Laurent Koscielnys attempt to hook clear ricocheted kindly into the path of Griezmann, who scored past David Ospina at the second attempt after Shkodran Mustafi slipped when trying to cover the unguarded net.