LONDON. — Arsenal manager Unai Emery insisted his side’s Europa League football semi-final against Valencia is still “50-50” despite the Gunners taking a 3-1 first leg lead to Spain.
Valencia’s bright start at the Emirates on Thursday night was rewarded with Mouctar Diakhaby’s away goal.
But Alexandre Lacazette quickly turned the game around with two goals in eight first-half minutes before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s late strike gave Arsenal a two-goal advantage to defend at the Mestalla on May 9. However, Emery, who managed Valencia between 2008 and 2012, knows the tie is far from over due to Arsenal’s terrible away record this season.
“It is a good result at home, but the second leg is going to be very difficult and maybe different. I consider for both teams it is 50-50,” said Emery.
“We can be proud of the players. It is not easy to be calm and come back with that result against this team.”
Arsenal are desperate not just for silverware in Emery’s first season, but the guarantee of Champions League qualification for next season that winning the Europa League would bring.
“We want to win the Europa League to go straight to the Champions League, but also to win a trophy,” said Lacazette.
“We want to finish in the top four in the Premier League and if we can go to Baku (for the Europa League final), it will be special.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri defended his decision to leave Eden Hazard on the bench and said his team “deserved a trophy” after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their Europa League football semi-final on Thursday night.
Pedro’s first-half equaliser gave Chelsea a potentially crucial away goal after a hard-fought clash at the Commerzbank Arena.
Sarri raised eyebrows with his decision to leave Hazard out of the starting line-up, but he said he had no choice but to rest the Belgian star. — AFP.