Arsenal surprise in Europa League climb with Ronaldo scoring on Manchester Utd return

Arsenal’s brilliant run of form was cut short in a 2-0 defeat to PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League – despite Mikel Arteta naming a strong squad for the Dutch clash.

Former Newcastle and Barcelona forward Luuk de Jong’s halftime start turned the game around, beating Rob Holding to serve Joey Veerman for the opening goal in the 55th minute, before scoring eight minutes later.

Arteta had named a strong team in the hopes of earning a point and securing first place in Group A – and thus a direct place in the round of 16 in March. But their ball movement was slow and they were unable to capitalize on their dominance of the ball.

And they were forced to pay for their absence from clinical work in the final third, when De Jong broke the game in the space of eight minutes. After scoring Veerman’s first shot, De Jong headed home after Aaron Ramsdale failed to score a corner.

Arteta sent some of his biggest names from the bench – Bukayo Saka, Thomas Partey, then Gabriel Jesus – but PSV held their place in the qualifiers.

For Arsenal, they host FC Zurich next week, with the win securing first place – and avoiding a playoff round in February.

Arteta would certainly like to play a second-tier XI for this match, which takes place three days before a trip to Chelsea, but now he may have to change those plans.

Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo scored after returning to Manchester United in a 3-0 Europa League win over Sheriff.

Ronaldo was frustrated for much of the match as Sheriff held off their much bigger rivals with a stoic defensive performance, only to be undone just before half-time when Diogo Dalot headed home from a corner.

Substitute Marcus Rashford made it 2-0 in the 65th minute after substitute Luke Shaw had delivered a beautiful cross for a powerful header.

Ronaldo was a picture of annoyance after having a shot blocked at close range, shooting wide in the second half on a good opportunity and having a goal disallowed for offside – prompting the Portuguese ace to take the ball out of the net and kick it in the crowd.

But he finally scored in the 81st minute when he took advantage of the ball after the sheriff’s keeper blocked his header, scoring the goal in the sequel. It was his 701st career goal for the club.

United are now seven games unbeaten in all competitions, their longest streak this year.

The Red Devils also secured their spot in the knockout stage.

They travel to Real Sociedad next week, where a two-goal win secures them first place in the group over the Spanish side. The group winners go straight to the round of 16, while the runners-up face a team that dropped out of the Champions League.

A surprise early in the season, Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin kept their hopes of a place in the knockout stage of the European second division competition alive thanks to a 1-0 victory over Braga.

In the Conference League, West Ham maintained their 100% record by beating Silkeborg 1-0 and Fiorentina secured their place in the round of 16 with a 2-1 win over Istanbul Basaksehir.

In their first match since manager Unai Emery announced he was leaving Premier League club Aston Villa, Villarreal dropped points for the first time in Europe this season.

Despite having already qualified for the round of 16 as group winners, they were drawn 2-2 by Hapoel Beer-Sheva, with Sagiv Jehezkel equalizing in the 79th minute.

In Group D, Cologne’s trip to Slovacko was postponed to Friday, after the game was originally delayed by half an hour due to heavy fog in the Czech Republic.

The teams only managed seven minutes of play before the referee left the game with a scoreless score.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow us on Social Media
%d bloggers like this: