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Arsenal 1 Porto 0 (agg 1-1 – 4-2 on pens): Gunners finally break last-16 curse as they scrape through on penalties – The Sun

THEY had waited 14 long, wilderness years for a night like this.

For a Champions League knock-out victory. 

Leandro Trossard scored the opener

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Leandro Trossard scored the openerCredit: Alamy
David Raya was the shootout hero

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David Raya was the shootout heroCredit: Getty
The keeper saved two penalties

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The keeper saved two penaltiesCredit: Reuters

For a return to the land of the giants and the super-rich, alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona and Bayern Munich and the rest. 

And on a slow-burning, high-stakes night of suffocating tension, as the big hand on the Clock End headed towards 11pm, their wish was finally granted. 

When David Raya saved spot-kicks from the Porto duo of Wendell and Galeno, Mikel Arteta’s men were transported into dreamland.

Remarkably, this was the first penalty shoot-out in any Champions League tie for eight years – and Raya was the undoubted hero.

This was not the Arsenal side which has freewheeled and cavorted its way through so many Premier League goal. 

Leandro Trossard’s first-half strike cancelled out Porto’s first-leg lead but the visitors showed nous and muscle and heart to take it the distance.

Then Raya turned Wendell’s effort on to the post and thwarted Galeno’s strike with an athletic dive and the deal was sealed. 

Before kick-off, there was pomp and circumstance, pyros and flags, anthems and anticipation.

It was a night for ghostbusting, a night to exorcise the long dog days of Arsene Wenger’s latter years, when the Arsenal would reach this stage of the Champions League and regularly have their backsides spanked, usually by Bayern Munich. 

They are arguably the grandest club in Europe never to have been crowned European champions and while the Premier League’s gripping three-horse must be a priority for Arteta, this was a new frontier. 

The pre-match talk among the faithful had been of Porto’s cynical cheating and diving – although anybody who’d watched Kai Havertz against Brentford on Saturday would know that those are not solely Portuguese traits. 

Still, Porto were happy to play the rugged streetwise villains. Former Real Madrid hatchet man Pepe was here, aged 40 now but still with the air of a western-movie anti-hero.

After every challenge he made, you expected him to spit tobacco into a pan. 

Inside two minutes, Bukayo Saka was floored by something which was not so much a tackle as a gangland hit. 

Ref Clement Turpin waved play on. This was to be a bare-knuckle night, no Queensberry Rules. 

After losing the first leg to Galeno’s spectacular late strike, there had been talk of Arsenal’s naivety at European level. 

This, an Arsenal side which included European champions in Jorginho and Havertz, a former Real Madrid player in Odegaard, and a couple of England men who have experienced the sharp end of international tournaments.

They were not straight out of the soft-play area, this lot. And soon they took the fight to Porto. 

Saka toasted his full-back, cut inside and forced a scrambling stop from Diogo Costa, then Odegaard drilled into the side-netting. 

Arteta’s team were building up a head of steam and the locals were urging, raging, foaming. This was what Londoners like to call ‘proper’.   

Porto, though, can play as well as spoil. A sweeping move ended with David Raya pushing out a fierce shot from Evanilson.

The visitors were relishing their defensive graft. A Ben White cross-shot was headed away from under the crossbar by Pepe, who winked as if he’d just ricocheted a bullet off the tin-star badge of the sheriff.

Five minutes before half-time, though, Porto’s resistance snapped.

Odegaard spotted a pass that wasn’t even there. He took out three defenders with a single silk thread, allowing Trossard to angle his shot through Pepe’s legs and past Costa. 

Here was the squad depth Arsenal weren’t supposed to possess. Gabriel Martinelli’s understudy coming up trumps. 

Porto’s medical team were working overtime, their super slo-mo magic sponges put to work while the home support screamed their tonsils out in frustration. 

The ref’s stopwatch wasn’t working, though, there was only a minute of added time at the end of the first half. 

The tackling was bruising but Turpin wasn’t giving much, as lawless as his highwayman namesake, 

The Emirates was angry and anxious. Especially when Porto kept targeting Jakub Kiwior, Arsenal’s square-peg left-back. 

Arsenal thought they had seized an aggregate lead midway through the halfway when Havertz wrestled with Pepe and clattered into Costa before the ball ran loose to Odegaard, who netted.

Turpin incensed the locals further by awarding Porto a free-kick, perhaps for a slight tug on Pepe’s shirt, perhaps for the collision with the keeper – either way it was harsh and not in keeping with the way the Frenchman had refereed up to that point. 

Arteta was booked for rousing the rabble.

Almost instantly, Raya beat away a Nico Gonzalez shot. 

Now, every misplaced pass spelt potential elimination. It was a late-night poker game, only with sweat and bruising.  

There was a yellow card for Pepe, perhaps the 1,000th of his career. 

Arteta went death-or-glory, taking off his tick-tock man Jorginho and sending on Gabriel Jesus, who soon had a shot deflected wide by Costa.

Saka had one beaten away, Odegaard screwed one wide, then it was extra-time. 

Havertz tangled with Porto boss Sergio Conceicao on the touchline, firecrackers went off in the away end but there was precious little goalmouth action before the shoot-out. 

Porto's defended resiliently and forced penalties

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Porto’s defended resiliently and forced penaltiesCredit: Getty

Arsenal’s Champions League record

Gunners break their last-16 curse

  • 2010-11 vs Barcelona – L 4-3 on aggregate
  • 2011-12 vs AC Milan – L 4-3 on aggregate
  • 2012-13 vs Bayern Munich – D 3-3 (out on away goals)
  • 2013-14 vs Bayern Munich – L 3-1 on aggregate
  • 2014-15 vs Monaco – D 3-3 (out on away goals)
  • 2015-16 vs Barcelona – L 5-1 on aggregate
  • 2016-17 vs Bayern Munich – L 10-2 on aggregate
  • 2023-24 vs Porto – D 1-1 win on pens (through 4-2 on penalties)

THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY..

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