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FutureStarrSporting Lisbon Goal Hero Goncalves Mocks Granit Xhaka After Arsenal's Europa League Exit
On 19 minutes of the second leg of their Europa League last 16 tie, Granit Xhaka had given Arsenal the lead against Sporting Lisbon. But Goncalves pulled back an amazing equaliser for Sporting to level the score at 1-1.
Sporting Lisbon ultimately prevailed with a 5-3 penalty shootout victory to knock Arsenal out of the competition. But Goncalves' goal was the crowning achievement on an incredible evening.
Sporting Lisbon goal hero Pedro Goncalves mocked Arsenal goal hero Granit Xhaka after their exit from the Europa League by scoring an amazing strike against him in the 62nd minute of their match. With 55 goals this season for his club, Pedro celebrated his 17th goal of this campaign with a spectacular strike in the 62nd minute of their encounter against Arsenal.
Arsenal fans who crowded the stands at Emirates Stadium were left in disbelief as Portuguese striker Ronaldo fired home a goal from 47 yards for their side's second goal and earned them a 2-2 draw. This means the Gunners will now face off again against Real Madrid on Wednesday night in the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie.
A portrait of a young Arsenal supporter with their hood up and mobile phone in hand captured the emotions felt after Xhaka had appeared to taunt them following the loss. It was an image of fear and doubt that perfectly captured what many felt after that encounter.
Last weekend, Xhaka was on the losing side to Manchester City and has had an eventful season thus far. Despite some setbacks and obstacles along the way, he appears to have turned things around and is once again among Arsenal fans' most popular players.
Since Mikel Arteta's arrival in north London, the midfielder has adjusted to the changes and style of play the manager wants him to employ. Xhaka has now played some of his best football yet under Arteta; creating more chances than ever before this season and improving on assists and goals both.
He has become an essential element of Arsenal's team, his passing being a key factor in attacking moves and presence central areas creating more room and time to create. Particularly between lines where his technical skill and chemistry allow him to get in behind opposition back lines.
Arsenal's success this season has been due in large part to Xhaka's stellar form, and he should be rewarded for his efforts with an opportunity to shine against Tottenham on Saturday. Xhaka could be the ideal leader for the team at the Emirates Stadium where his on-field presence often inspires supporter reaction.
On Thursday night, Goncalves scored an incredible goal to tie Sporting against Arsenal in their Europa League quarter-final. He spotted Aaron Ramsdale off his line before unleashing a sublime lofted strike from just inside the halfway line that flew over both keepers and dipped under the bar to send this match into extra time.
On a dramatic night for Sporting, their game against Tottenham had been level at 1-1 heading into penalties and ultimately ended 5-4 for them. It was an incredible victory in front of an enthusiastic away crowd that witnessed this dramatic comeback.
Mikel Arteta made several changes to the starting lineup, with Gabriel Jesus, Leandro Trossard and Thomas Partey all coming on. Jesus - returning after being sent off last week in the first leg of their 2-2 draw in Portugal - showed great promise early on with an impressive save from Antonio Adan. Saliba was replaced by Bukayo Saka after getting involved in a clash with Manuel Ugarte.
Soon afterwards, the Gunners went back on the attack with Xhaka hitting a shot that deflected over Adan's head in the 19th minute to take an early lead. To celebrate with his wife Leonita in attendance, Xhaka then picked up and launched it into the net to echo their daughter Ayana's celebration.
Arsenal made a strong start, but were unable to create enough chances for another goal before halftime. Although Arsenal were in control of the match, Sporting kept up the pressure as time went on. Ultimately, however, Arsenal failed to capitalize on any further chances created.
On the hour mark, Goncalves spotted Ramsdale off his line and then executed an incredible lofted strike from just inside the half-way line that dipped under the bar to send Sporting into extra time. It was a moment that left away fans in disbelief - many could be seen huddling together in one corner of the field.
Goncalves' goal has been likened to David Beckham's stunning strike for Manchester United against Wimbledon in 1996. The former Wolves player lobbed Ramsdale from halfway line, making him the hero of this match and leading to wild celebrations in the away end.
In the 78th minute, Xhaka had been substituted but still made his way into the crowd to celebrate. His celebration included placing his thumb on his nose and waving his fingers - an indication of a player who takes pleasure in their footballing.
Xhaka donned the jersey of Ardon Jashari - whose father was executed by Serbian forces during the Kosovo War - and engaged in several heated exchanges with Serbian players throughout the match.
However, he had no intention of stirring up any controversy during the match. Instead, he wanted to celebrate with his teammates - including Jorginho who scored an own goal in the 93rd minute that secured Arsenal's first victory at Villa Park since 1999.
FIFA fined the Swiss midfielder 10,000 Swiss francs for his actions during a post-match interview, but he quickly issued a statement on Twitter that he never meant any offense or aggression in that exchange.
He insisted that any political or sexist remarks he heard after the game had nothing to do with him. Additionally, he mentioned his father's support of Albanian women who were raped during the Kosovo War, noting that he has long advocated against discrimination against women and children.
Xhaka was criticised for his behavior during a World Cup match against Serbia in 2018 when he performed the Albanian nationalist symbol with his hands. Although fined for the gesture, he later apologized and admitted feeling frustrated with Serbia during the game.
Though Xhaka's behavior has been criticized, it is evident that he enjoys playing football. He has been an integral player for Arsenal and will be key as they attempt to retain the Premier League title.
Xhaka has long been known for his defensive midfield role, but he's proven that he can also play up front. In a first-half performance against Sporting, he relentlessly pressurized the Portuguese defense and won the ball back in dangerous areas. Not only was this ability displayed through leading counter-attacks, but it was also instrumental in Arsenal's winning goals.
Granit Xhaka scored the only goal of the game to put Arsenal ahead on 19 minutes, but Sporting Lisbon levelled things up just after an hour mark with Pedro Goncalves' stunning long-range strike from halfway line that could be considered one of the goals of the season contenders. As Aaron Ramsdale slipped off his line to take cover, Pedro Goncalves took advantage and lobbed Ramsdale from long range with ease.
On Thursday night at the Emirates Stadium, Sporting fans erupted with cheers as Goncalves scored from his half line and lifted the ball over Ramsdale's head to secure an equalizer for Ruben Amorim's side. BT Sport captured every moment of that incredible goal - including one unsuspecting Arsenal fan who seemed to revel in it more than most.
The Portuguese star's long-range chip had echoes of David Beckham's iconic long-range effort for Manchester United against Wimbledon in 1996, which launched him to superstardom. Unfortunately, it came at a time when Arsenal were lacking their usual composure and looked vulnerable against any decent delivery.
Arsenal's predicament worsened when they were made to play extra time after Sporting were reduced to ten men following Manuel Ugarte's dismissal. Leandro Trossard hit the post and Antonio Adan made crucial saves before Gabriel Martinelli missed from the penalty spot, ending Arsenal's hopes of progressing to the next round.
As a result, the game went to penalties and 10-man Sporting emerged victorious to knock Arsenal out of the Europa League. As such, Arsenal may need to revamp their squad in the summer.
Arsenal are expected to bring in at least two new players this summer after their 2020/21 campaign ended poorly. Rumours swirl about potential targets including Belgian starlet Albert Sambi Lokonga and Portuguese midfielder Pedro Goncalves, both of whom have been linked with the Gunners.
90min reports Goncalves as a potential Mesut Ozil replacement and could play in an expansive number 10 role. He could also serve as the perfect replacement for Bruno Fernandes at the heart of midfield.
Goncalves has had an impressive season in Portugal and it would come as no surprise if he were to move to the Premier League this summer. His attacking ability makes him a perfect option for any new manager seeking someone with goalscoring ability that could replace Mesut Ozil.