Bukayo Saka warned his Arsenal team-mates that when facing Benfica in the second leg of their last-32 Europa League tie after his goal won them a draw in the first game in Rome, they could not put a foot wrong.
The Gunners were the better side, but struggled to take a variety of first-half opportunities before falling behind to a Pizzi penalty, played in Rome’s Olympic Stadium instead of Portugal for Covid-19 purposes.
However, with Cedric Soares crossing low for England winger Saka to level from close range, they replied quickly.
The England winger is now determined not to allow his side to suffer the same European fate as last season when a goal in the last minute of extra time saw Olympiakos progress to the last 16 on away goals at Arsenal’s expense.
“It is about managing the game,” Saka told BT Sport. We conceded a dumb goal last year when we went out to Olympiakos. We can’t put a foot wrong because we’re going to make it impossible on ourselves if we do.
Tonight we had a lot of opportunities. We dominated the game as a whole. They were offered a lucky punishment, which I don’t think it was. We must have responded well.
We got a goal back and could have gone on to win it. It’s not the worst result, we got an away goal.”
When Emile Smith Rowe was adjudged to have tried to block Diogo Goncalves’ cross, Benfica’s penalty was awarded, with Pizzi scoring to raise his goal tally to a tournament-high of seven.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had two big chances in the game, fresh from scoring a hat-trick against Leeds in the Premier League, but inexplicably side-footed wide from close range with the score at 0-0 and then dragged an attempt off target at 1-1.
In good news for the Gunners, as replacements for the second half, left-back Kieran Tierney and forward Gabriel Martinelli made welcome returns from injury.
In a week, the second leg is in Athens, sandwiched between two major league fixtures for the Gunners – Manchester City’s visit to the Emirates and a trip to Leicester.