Arsenal continued their pattern of worrying play in the first half and goals in the second, beating Sporting Lisbon 1-0 for their eleventh win on the spin.
The two sides looked about evenly matched in the opening minutes of the game, each with about an equal share of possession and neither really threatening the other’s goal. Arsenal’s first big chance didn’t come until the 23rd minute—Mohamed Elneny was tackled roughly on the edge of Sporting’s box, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan hit a nicely curling free kick. But it was right at Sporting keeper Renan Ribeiro, who punched it away, and Arsenal were unable to collect the rebound.
Sporting had some chances of their own, one from open play and a few more from corners, but they seemed to be aiming for the stratosphere just as often as the goal. But at the thirty-minute mark, Arsenal gave them an easy opportunity. Rob Holding had defended well up to that point, but his pass out from Arsenal’s box was badly misplaced, going straight to Nani, whose shot was just wide of the post.
The Gunners might have gotten away with another one after Fredy Montero went down after being challenged by Sokratis, but referee Damir Skomina waved play on. The game had gotten chippy and fractured at that point, stopping for a bit of complaining to Skomina after Stephan Lichtsteiner took a Sporting boot in the head, and again after Stefan Ristovski pulled his hamstring chasing down Danny Welbeck.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a chance in the dying minutes of the half, but it was a relatively easy save for Ribeiro.
Sporting opened the second half with a dangerous free kick and another near miss. At the other end of the pitch, Aubameyang had two more shots on goal, both dealt with brilliantly by Ribeiro, and Sporting hit back immediately, keeping the game interesting for Bernd Leno.
Arsenal got closer and closer to scoring as the second half continued—a three-man counterattack ended with a blocked Aaron Ramsey shot and a tangle of feet, and Welbeck finally found the back of the net with half an hour to go only to have the goal disallowed (he had fouled his marker).
By then, Arsenal were beginning to find their second-half form, but Ribeiro kept his team level with another handful of saves—until the 78th minute. A heavy touch from Sebastián Coates gave Welbeck the ball with only Ribeiro in his way, and finally the Sporting keeper couldn’t make the save.
The goal woke Sporting’s offense up, and Arsenal spent the remaining ten minutes of regular time absorbing pressure on the other end of the pitch. The game ended in nasty fashion, with two more bookings and one headbutt from Coates after a shouty exchange with Lichtsteiner. Sporting were lucky to finish the game with eleven players (the referee had his back turned).
Arsenal now sit atop Group E with nine points. Today’s win was their eleventh in a row in all competitions, putting them just one more victory away from matching their 2007 twelve-win streak. The Gunners’ next match is this Sunday against Crystal Palace, and their next Europa League game is against Sporting on November 8th.