PARIS, France, Feb 25 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice including a late winner as Arsenal qualified for the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Benfica in the home leg of their relocated tie in Greece.
The Gabon striker put Arsenal ahead at the Karaiskakis stadium in Piraeus following a 1-1 draw in the first leg, which was played in Rome due to Covid-19 travel restrictions between Portugal and the United Kingdom.
Diogo Goncalves levelled the tie with a magnificent curling free-kick and Rafa Silva gave Benfica a 2-1 lead on the night when he took advantage of an error from Dani Ceballos on the hour.
Kieran Tierney rifled in an equaliser and Aubameyang headed in the decisive goal from Bukayo Saka’s cross on 87 minutes, earning the Gunners a 4-3 aggregate victory and saving them from an unusual away goals exit.
“Everyone is happy tonight. This is what gives me power every day, take errors from the past and transform to strength,” Aubameyang told BT Sport.
“The team showed a lot of character and we deserved the win. It was a hard game. What we showed tonight will be an example for the future.”
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers progressed following their 5-2 win over Belgian side Antwerp at Ibrox, with five different players on target for the Scottish league leaders.
After a dramatic 4-3 win in the first leg last week, goals from Alfredo Morelos, Nathan Patterson and Ryan Kent put Rangers in control before late penalties from Borna Barisic and Cedric Itten wrapped up the tie 9-5 on aggregate.
Napoli’s dismal run continued as they were knocked out 3-2 on aggregate by Granada despite winning 2-1 in the return leg in Italy.
Ajax eliminated French Ligue 1 leaders Lille with a 2-1 victory in Amsterdam to complete a 4-2 overall win, while Gerard Moreno netted both goals as Villarreal dumped out Salzburg 4-1 on aggregate.
Former winners Shakhtar Donetsk completed a 3-0 aggregate victory over Maccabi Tel-Aviv, while Norwegians Molde dumped out Hoffenheim 5-3 on aggregate following a 2-0 win in Germany.
Manchester United already have one foot in the last 16 after an emphatic 4-0 win over Real Sociedad last week, making the most of the fact the first leg of that tie was switched from Spain to Italy after the Spanish government introduced a ban on arrivals by air from the UK.
Meanwhile Leicester City, who are behind second-placed United in the Premier League only on goal difference, do have work still to do in the return leg at home against Czech champions Slavia Prague after a 0-0 draw last week.
AC Milan take on Red Star Belgrade in a clash of former European champions with their tie in the balance after a 2-2 draw in Serbia.
The draw for the last 16 takes place on Friday, with Tottenham Hotspur in the mix too, having dispatched Wolfsberg of Austria by an aggregate score of 8-1.