Sat, Mar 09, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Rennes stun 10-man Arsenal at home

LAST CHANCE:The Gunners need a decisive victory to stay in the competition, their only way to gain a title this season and a possible route into the Champions League

AFP, RENNES, France

SSC Napoli’s Adam Ounas, right, kicks the ball in their UEFA Europa League last-16 first leg against RB Salzburg at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples, Italy, on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

Chelsea and SSC Napoli on Thursday closed in on the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, but Arsenal face a major battle to reach the last eight after a 3-1 defeat away to Stade Rennais.

Alex Iwobi gave the Gunners a perfect start in northwestern France at a raucous Roazhon Park, but the match hinged on the sending off of Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos four minutes before halftime.

Benjamin Bourigeaud equalized moments later and the hosts’ second-half pressure paid off, as a Nacho Monreal own-goal put Rennes ahead before Ismaila Sarr’s late header gave them a two-goal cushion in the tie.

Unai Emery’s side must now turn the tie around in the second leg in London on Thursday next week if they are to progress any further in a competition that represents their only hope of silverware this season and offers a potential route into next season’s UEFA Champions League with Arsenal sitting outside the top four in the Premier League.

“I think we can do better, 3-1 is hard for us,” Emery said. “We are going to think for next week. We will start with 11 against 11, without Sokratis, without [Alexandre] Lacazette, but if we play like we did in the first 40 minutes, with our supporters also, we will have the possibility to come back.”

The Gunners recovered from a first-leg deficit to beat BATE Borisov in the previous round, but Rennes are a step up in quality and reveling in what is already their best-ever European run.

After Iwobi’s early opener, the game turned just before halftime when Hatem Ben Arfa played in Sarr, who was hauled back by Sokratis just outside the area. The Greek defender had already been booked, so a second caution equaled a red card.

Bourigeaud struck the wall from the resulting free-kick, but the ball came back to him and he sent a stunning half-volley into the far corner.

Petr Cech, back facing one of his former clubs, made several interventions before being beaten again in the 65th minute, as Mehdi Zeffane’s cross from the right deflected in off Monreal, and Sarr added the potentially crucial third goal two minutes from time.

Chelsea might also need this competition to get back in the Champions League next season and the Blues eased past Dynamo Kiev 3-0 at Stamford Bridge courtesy of goals from Pedro Rodriguez, Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Pedro could have had at least a hat-trick, as Denys Boyko denied him four times after the Spaniard had turned home Olivier Giroud’s flick to give Chelsea an early lead.

Willian was more accurate with a brilliant free-kick 25 minutes from time to double Chelsea’s lead and substitute Hudson-Odoi surely put the tie beyond Kiev with a smart finish a minute from time.

“The third goal for us is really very important,” Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri said. “3-0 is an important result, but of course we have to play the second leg, so we have to be careful.”

Sarri’s former side, Napoli, are also well on course for the quarters, as early goals from Arkadiusz Milik and Fabian Ruiz, plus a second-half own-goal from Jerome Onguene, earned a 3-0 win over last season’s semi-finalists RB Salzburg.

Valencia beat Krasnodar thanks to Rodrigo’s double at the Mestalla, but Viktor Claesson’s second-half strike will give the Russians hope of reaching the last eight on home soil in the second leg.

Inter could regret a missed penalty by Marcelo Brozovic as the Italian giants drew 0-0 away to Eintracht Frankfurt.

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