It’s one you would refer to as grand larceny, a case of utter smash and grab at the Emirates. Atletico Madrid looked forlorn, shorn of any sort of invention, unable to string two passes together. They were a goal down, a man less, and then Diego Simeone brought on Stefan Savic for Angel Correa, meaning they had three centre-backs on the pitch, and one striker, a sign that they were contented to lose by just the one goal.
Yet their moment of escapology would arrive with nine minutes left, when a hopeful ball forward fell to Antoine Griezmann, who shrugged off an uncertain Laurent Koscielny. Griezmann’s initial attempt was saved by David Ospina, but from the rebound, he would make no mistake, despite the efforts of Shkodran Mustafi. Atletico had performed a typical Atletico performance, and they would be leaving with a draw and an away goal, which judging by the celebrations in the stands from an Atleti official towards Simeone, felt like qualification to the final itself.
There was no easing off at the start of the game, certainly not from referee Clement Turpin, who took just two minutes to book Atletico’s Sime Vrsajlko for a foul. Seven minutes later, he would do it again, after Vrsajlko stamped on Nacho Monreal, and the Croatian subsequently received his marching orders. With that, Arsenal took charge of the game, a retreating Atleti always happy to cede possession. The Gunners were on the front foot, and would feel they should have found the net in the first half, Alexandre Lacazette denied by the post, as well as Jan Oblak, who also foiled Danny Welbeck, while Monreal and Koscielny fired efforts wide, as halftime came with the score goalless.
Not that Atletico didn’t have their moments in the first 45, Griezmann testing Ospina on two occasions, but it was mostly Arsenal, and the second half would be in the same vein, as wave after wave of attack came from the Gunners. They would get their reward on the hour mark, Mesut Ozil lifting a cross into the box, and Lacazette, who probably would have been in the Atletico side but for a transfer embargo last summer, headed in for his seventh goal in seven games.
Now Arsenal had taken charge of the tie, Atletico were hapless and just about willing the game to come to an end, but writing off Los Colcheronos is always a perilous task, and so it proved, as Griezmann had his moment to draw the visitors level. Arsenal pushed for a winner but none was forthcoming, Aaron Ramsey’s header brilliantly pushed away by Oblak.
For most of the game it was dominant Arsenal. At the end of it, it’s advantage Atletico.