Antwerp 1964, with the corner of Morais. Alkmaar 2005, with the miracle of Miguel Garcia. Manchester 2012, with Rui Patrício saving Joe Hart’s header. And London 2023, with Pote’s magic goal and Adan’s saves.
At the Emirates, from which a Portuguese side had never left smiling – Arsenal’s only domestic triumph at home was against Benfica in 1991/92, still at Highbury – Sporting were looking for a historic run to the quarter-finals of the Europa League. At home to the Premier League leader, one of the best European displays of the 21st century from the Lions deserved a night that goes into the Alvalade club’s gallery of great achievements.
After 120 minutes of personality and intelligence, audacity mixed with caution and flair combined with headers, penalties decided the duel. We were there because Pote was dressed as David Beckham, with a goal inspired by the Englishman’s goal against Wimbledon, a genius that can only come from a player for whom the context sounds indifferent, who seems to react to almost everything with this get-up of the shoulders. and they look defiant, making the Emirates as natural a place for such audacity as the streets of Vidago, where he grew up.
And we were there because Adán had made an exhibition for eternity, with seven saves, many of them very difficult. St. Juste, Esgaio, Inacio and Arthur scored their penalties, a list of goalscorers that could have sounded like a joke when at the other end they beat Odegaard, Saka and Trossard. But Adán wasn’t done with his night yet.
Martinelli shot, the Spaniard saved. It was the final flight of a night in which the goalkeeper’s gloves became an intangible legacy for the Alvalade club. In the at the point of struggle, Nuno Santos didn’t flinch, oblivious to the competitor for the Puskas prize he had just seen (ah, the Europa League final is at Puskas Arena, Budapest). The Emirates, home of the Premier League leaders, the Super League in fact of European football, was painted green and white.
Reuben Amorim asked to his players to start with the ball in London, seeking to calm the momentum of the Emirates. And the team responded, coming in with personality and poise, fearlessly circulating behind and watching the arrival up front. In the 9th minute, Tomiyasu had to be replaced due to injury and Arteta took the opportunity to use one of his trademark images, a end of time impromptu, calling for all footballers to take cues on the sideline, like a time-out in other sports.
In the 13th minute, when Sporting had 58% of the ball possession, one of the moves patiently constructed by the visitors was a move to the right where Francisco Trincao appeared. The left-hander cut inside and shot with danger, on the Lions’ first threat.
The Emirates may have been a symbol of Arsenal’s decline for many years, the reason why Arsene Wenger has seen his budget slashed and the club’s status redefined, from perennial Premier League title contender to top international soccer nursery. a space where people played well. until the triumphs of others were applauded. The money spent on building the precinct that replaced the romance of Highbury drove the red and whites of North London, but today the Emirates breathes a different air, an air of a dream, of hope, of reconstruction.
That’s why it takes so little to ignite the audience’s flame. In the 16th minute, a first dangerous move by Gabriel Jesus changed the atmosphere. From cold and almost indifferent, Emirates became warm and enthusiastic, pushing the team forward. Arsenal listened to the stands and made it 1-0 in the 19th minute: the ball hit the back of the Sporting defence, with Esgaio missing the cut to Martinelli. The Brazilian saw the goal blocked by Adán, but Xhaka didn’t miss the rebound.
1-0 was the football match that emotionally woke up the stands and moments of pressure followed for Sporting. Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus danced in front of the Leon defence, but Adán was present and avoided increasing the deficit. For almost 20 minutes, it looked like a shrunken version of the green and whites, but perhaps this was the first sign of success, in skill, on a night when the football was good, also knowing how to suffer, swaying but not falling. And when there was someone in the goal to save others, of course.
At the end of the first half the Portuguese team improved, returning to a record close to what it looked like at the start. Diomande revealed calm in defence, a strange calm for someone who on January 21 was challenging a Mafra-Trofense. Ugarte tried to multiply in midfield. Big rush from St. Juste, one of those defender looks like a candidate for the 100 meters in the Olympics, returned signs of danger with Ramsdale. On the stroke of half-time, a shot from outside the area by Ugarte went wide of the English keeper’s right-hand post, in Sporting’s most dangerous situation in the first stage.
Ruben Amorim’s men continued their boldness in the second half. Emirates silence returned, broken only by the Sporting fans. In the 62nd minute, the silence became more predictable than ever, with that breath-holding that comes before a moment of great impact that changes everything.
The Lions recover the ball at midfield. Pote stayed with her in the center circle, over 40 meters from Ramsdale. Ending there is a bold thought and a failure to execute. Maybe that’s why the bold and restless Pot took the shot.
The ball went up in the air, perhaps the football gods were in council to decide how to judge such insolence. The decision was the ball landing in the back of the Arsenal net, perfectly timed between the flight of the keeper and the crossbar, a projectile as powerful as it was elegant, a message of personality at the most important moment. Draw match.
Pote’s goal of a lifetime underlined Sporting’s superiority. With the away crowd in euphoria, the centre-backs rebounded high, Ugarte dominated midfield and the attack threatened. Immediately after 1-1, after a corner by the author of the masterpiece, Paulinho, with a header, almost gave Sporting the advantage. At 23 minutes into the second half, in the second half alone, the Lions had 64% possession and the visitors had five shots, compared to nil for the home team.
In the 72nd minute came the best chance for the 2-1 for the Portuguese team. Esgaius moved quickly to the right, finding Edwards alone in the middle. The Londoner, isolated at the home of his founding club’s arch-rivals Tottenham, shot but Ramsdale kept his head wide. The tie will be decided in extra time.
The extra 30 minutes began with the red and white version of Edwards’ missed shot. Esugo, released alongside Nuno Santos two days after his 18th birthday, played a back pass without looking, clearing Trosar. The Belgian, alone in front of Adan, saw the Spaniard block his shot. The Spaniard’s deflection led to a moment reminiscent of the moment before Pote’s goal, half a second in which it was not known whether it would be a goal or not. The ball hit the post.
In the 100th minute, Arteta introduced Odegaard, a luxury that rose to the challenge. With Odegard or Saka fresh, Arsenal put Sporting behind. Holding and Thomas Partey missed the target until Adan reappeared.
Perhaps the resistance shown by Sporting was the union of the two teams brought together by Ruben Amorim. The ability to suffer and the star of the title of the year with the talent to fight with the big rivals this season. In the 117th minute, another magical flight from Adán took the goal from Gabriel, who then saw Diomande, the 19-year-old Ivorian who filled the Emirates, deny him 2-1. Adán’s veteran and Diomande’s youth, ability on the ball and disposition to endure: Sporting’s night consisted of a marriage of different virtues.
Ugarte was sent off even before penalties. Looking at the estimated market value of goalscorers on both sides is an exercise in helping to understand how this was a winning win from Sporting’s side. Antwerp 1964, Alkmaar 2005, Manchester 2012, London 2023. The silence before Pote’s goal and Andan’s flights, that breath, gave way to the euphoria of the celebrations. Emirates enters the history of lions.