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‘It’s a real kick in the teeth’: Toothless Arsenal suffers late Champions League defeat to Porto

By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — Arsenal arrived at Porto’s Estádio do Dragão playing its finest football of the season, scoring an absurd 21 goals over the past five matches – and winning all of them.

Mikel Arteta’s side, then, will have understandably been in a buoyant mood heading into the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 clash, boosted further by Porto’s recent struggles in which the team had won once in its past three matches, including a surprise defeat to Portuguese minnow FC Arouca.

While Arsenal dominated possession and passing, the Gunners were largely toothless throughout the contest, mustering zero shots on target and just seven total shots all game.

With just 45 seconds of the four additional minutes remaining, the match appeared to be heading for a stalemate until Gabriel Martinelli launched an ambitious pass forward that was easily intercepted by Porto defender Otávio.

That set up a counterattack for the home side that ended with Brazilian forward Galeno curling a stunning long-range effort around Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice and over the outstretched arm of David Raya into the bottom corner to seal a crucial 1-0 win.

Rice blamed a lack of nous for the team’s failure to see out the draw.

“When it’s 0-0, you look up at the clock and it’s 93 minutes gone, if you’re not going to win the game, don’t lose it,” Rice told TNT Sports after the match. “Maybe have that bit of savviness about us at the end to get a draw in a tough stadium and against a tough opponent.

“You don’t know what to expect, it’s the knockouts. You can’t overlook anyone, ever, in the Champions League because it is the Champions League, special things happen. It’s a real kick in the teeth because we’ve conceded late, but we know what to do. If we want to get into the next round, we know how we’ve got to win and what we’ve got to do to go about that.

“We’re really positive about it, we’re not going to let our heads drop. We’ve been in a great bit of form, it’s about staying positive, getting back, recovering, going again in the Premier League and we’ll be ready for the Champions League for sure.”

Arteta echoed the thoughts of his midfielders, insisting his team needs to manage the end of games “much better” to avoid defeat in matches they “cannot win.”

“The way we handled the ball on three occasions in deep areas is not good enough and then that’s half-time [in the tie],” the Spanish manager told TNT Sports.

“If we want to be in the quarterfinals, you have to beat your opponent and this is what we have to do at the Emirates now. We lacked threat, more aggression, especially when we had the ball in the final third.

“We will tweak a few things to attack better, especially, because to be fair we haven’t conceded at all, but we can do better. There are certain things we have to do much better. We’ll play at home [in the next leg], we know them now and we know what to expect.”

The teams play the return leg at the Emirates Stadium on March 12.

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