Arsenal will take a 2-2 draw back to the Emirates Stadium for the second leg of their Europa League round-of-16 tie with Sporting CP after a back-and-forth first leg in Lisbon on Thursday.
The sides exchanged headed goals from corners in the first half, with William Saliba opening the scoring for the Premier League leaders before Goncalo Inacio equalized for the Portuguese hosts.
The pattern was then reversed in the second half. Sporting went in front 10 minutes after the interval through Paulinho before Arsenal restored parity with a fortunate own goal when Granit Xhaka’s cross deflected in off the unfortunate Hidemasa Morita.
Mikel Arteta made six alterations from the lineup that defeated Bournemouth in dramatic fashion on Saturday to maintain their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League. The hero of that occasion, Reiss Nelson, was handed a start while Matt Turner made his first appearance since January in goal.
Sporting, on a run of four consecutive wins in all competitions, began brightly.
With less than six minutes played, Pedro Goncalves exposed some deficiencies in the Arsenal defence to cut into the box for a clear strike at goal only to side-foot well wide of the target.
It was Arsenal, though, that struck first in the 22nd minute. Saliba took advantage of some slack marking in the penalty box to head down and in from Fabio Vieira’s corner from the left.
Arsenal went close to a second goal when Oleksandr Zinchenko got a second bite after his initial free-kick was blocked, stinging the finger tips of Antonio Adan as the Sporting goalkeeper turned the ball over the bar.
Sporting, however, would go into the half-time interval level following more suspect set-piece defending. With Turner rooted to his line and debutant Jakub Kiwior ducking out the way, Inacio was allowed a free jump inside the six-yard box to head in a Marcus Edwards corner.
Xhaka came close to restoring Arsenal’s advantage with another header from a corner, but the visitors could count themselves somewhat fortunate to go into the break level. Turner escaped a nervy moment when his pass out to Saliba in his own box was easily intercepted only for the United States No. 1 to be allowed to jump gratefully on the loose ball.
The action kicked up a gear at the start of the second half. Arsenal went close through Vieira and Gabriel Martinelli before Sporting took the lead for the first time in the 55th minute. Turner did well to save Goncalves’ initial effort after a neat reverse ball from Edwards but was powerless to prevent Paulinho from turning in the rebound.
The hosts’ lead would not last long, thanks to Arsenal benefiting from a major stroke of fortune just seven minutes later to level the game once more. Xhaka was aiming for the run of Martinelli with a pass into the box but it instead struck the chest of Morita to completely wrong foot Adan in the Sporting goal.
Both sides made a series of substitutions in the final quarter of the contest but there was a sense that neither side were too disappointed to finish all square ahead of the return leg in London in a weeks’ time.