Mikel Arteta hailed the “minute of magic” from Bukayo Saka that leaves Toolbox with a strong opportunity of reaching the Europa League final in spite of losing the very first leg of their semi-final 2-1 versus Villarreal.
The Spanish side raced to a two‑goal lead with objectives by Manu Trigueros and Raúl Albiol before a red card for Dani Ceballos made matters even worse for Arsenal. But Nicolas Pépé scored a crucial away goal from the spot after Trigueros was evaluated to have actually fouled Saka, a choice that left Villarreal revealing bewilderment that it was not reversed by VAR.
” It’s the most surreal charge I’ve seen for years,” stated Trigueros. “It’s extraordinary VAR doesn’t act. Saka runs past me and I simply put my feet on the ground since I do not wish to touch him. I thought maybe VAR will inform the referee my feet are on the ground and Saka hits me. I was truly amazed when they said it was a charge.”
Villarreal’s manager, Unai Emery, said: “VAR should have the ability to offer justice in such a clearcut circumstance.”
Arteta said the away objective “alters the tie entirely” but alerted his side must carry out next week in the 2nd leg far better than they performed in the first half in Spain. He did decline his speculative development, without any specialist striker, added to Arsenal’s problems. “We have played with 3 strikers often times this season and didn’t score any objectives, so it was a decision I made. The video game was conditioned after four mintues [when Villarreal opened the scoring] so it is tough to evaluate whether it would have worked or not.”
Asked whether he got his personnel selection incorrect, Arteta replied: “Clearly when you lose you always get it wrong.” But he defended the choice of Granit Xhaka at left-back, where he was exposed for Villarreal’s first objective. “When we won 4-0 away from house at Slavia Prague, who had not been beaten in a home game for three years, Granit played incredibly well. However I know that when that doesn’t occur it’s constantly going to be pointed at.”
Arteta stated he was poised to replace Ceballos prior to the midfielder received a 2nd yellow card “but by the time Gaby [Martinelli] was all set to come on, the action had taken place and he was out”.