Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is very pleased with the character that his team displayed against Benfica after advancing to the last-16 of the Europa League, saying his side “merited to be still in the game.
After a late winner from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led them to a 3-2 victory in the second leg on Thursday, Arsenal secured a spot in the last-16 of the Europa League in dramatic fashion. The first-leg match between Benfica and Arsenal ended in a 1-1 draw.
Again, I think we have made it very hard for ourselves. We have given them two targets over the two legs, and when that’s the case, you’re going to put the tie in a very hard spot,’ Arteta told Arsenal.com.
“I’m very pleased with the same time with the character, the bravery and the personality that the team has shown. And the determination to win the tie, we threw it all at them until the end and we were rewarded at the end because I think we deserved to be still in the game,” he added.
In the 21st minute, Aubameyang scored the opening goal of the match, but in the 43rd minute, Benfica managed to equalize. With the aid of Rafa Silva’s shot, Benfica then went ahead in the 61st minute, but Kieran Tierney fired in an equalizer six minutes later.
Dani Ceballos was also relieved by the manager after Arsenal’s victory. The Spain midfielder gave Benfica’s equalizer a free-kick, then made a defensive mistake for their second — but the late goal of Aubameyang ensured Arsenal’s victory.
Arteta said, “I’m particularly pleased with Dani because he’s a player who lives his professional life as the most important thing in his life and I know that if we had lost that game, it would have meant the world to him.”
He said, “And that’s where you need someone like Auba to come and step in and score the objectives and make him far happier than he might have been.”