MX23RW : Tuesday, August 3 02:09:35| >> :120:11475:11475:

Bukayo Saka admits Arsenal's start against Villarreal was "horrible"

Bukayo Saka admits Arsenal's start against Villarreal was
© Reuters
Gunners could have found themselves in a much worse position.

Bukayo Saka praised Arsenal for recovering from a "horrible" start to their Europa League semi-final against Villarreal as Nicolas Pepe's penalty kept them in the tie heading into next week's second leg.

The Gunners found themselves two goals behind and down to 10 men as a tactical tweak from manager Mikel Arteta to play without a recognised striker failed to pay off.

First-half goals from Manuel Trigueros and Raul Albiol preceded a Dani Ceballos red card just before the hour.

But Pepe converted from the spot to send Arsenal home with a 2-1 deficit, Villarreal having also been reduced to 10 men late on following the dismissal of former Tottenham man Etienne Capoue.

Saka, who was one of the better performers on an average night for the visitors and won the penalty from which Pepe scored, admitted the start of the game was far from good enough.

"These big semi-finals, I can't win the game by myself, nobody can win a game by themselves," he said.

"I think the team, the way we started was horrible. You can't start a game like this and it's no surprise we went 2-0 down.

"There are a lot of positives, which all came in the second half. But, like I said, it's a semi-final, Europa League, and to start the game like this it's impossible to have a chance of scoring.

"We didn't create anything, we lost every duel, we were passive and it's really frustrating to look back on it.

"But I am just happy that in the second half, we picked ourselves up and we got a good chance and we managed to score."

Arteta revealed he had told his players at half-time that the response to a poor start had to come in the second half in Spain and not a week later.

Nicolas Pepe's penalty gave Arsenal an away goal.
Nicolas Pepe's penalty gave Arsenal an away goal. (Alberto Saiz/AP)

Asked if he felt the dynamic of the tie has now changed following the final 45 minutes at El Madrigal, Saka added: "Yes, 100 per cent.

"I definitely think we showed we are better than them, even with 10 men we were dominating them. "So, it is just up to us. It is always up to us. I think we have a team full of quality players and, when we play properly, we can beat anyone

"I think, to be honest, to go to 10 men and react and get a goal back, I think we did really well. So, we leave ourselves with a good chance of going through at the Emirates."

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CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States22251764
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Great BritainGreat Britain11121235
Today's Olympic highlights header

Tuesday's key events

· Team GB duo Jack Laugher - silver medallist in Rio - and James Heatly take part in the men's 3m springboard semi-final (2am), and will hope to qualify for the final later in the day (7am)

· Two Britons are involved in the women's long jump final, but Abigail Irozuru and Jazmin Sawyers have their work cut out to get a spot on the podium (2.50am)
· Norwegian Karsten Warholm, who broke the world record just last month, goes for gold in the men's 400m hurdles final. USA's Rai Benjamin is expected to be his main challenger (4.20am)
· Great Britain have three representatives in the final of the women's 800m, with Jemma Reekie having perhaps the best chance of a medal (1.25pm)
· A mouth-watering women's 200m final sees Elaine Thompson-Herah go for the prestigious sprint double after claiming the 100m crown. Compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Namibia's Christine Mboma and USA's Gabrielle Thomas are expected to be her main competitors (1.50pm)

· The rescheduled women's skiff 49er FX (4.33am) and men's skiff 49er (5.33am) come to their conclusion, with Team GB involved in both medal races
· Defending champion Giles Scott bids for a second successive gold in the Finn class medal race (6.33am)
· There is another medal chance for Team GB in the mixed Nacra 17 medal race (7.33am)

· Team GB's Joe Fraser takes part in the parallel bars final, kicking off the final day of artistic gymnastics (9am)
· USA superstar Simone Biles, who has been forced to pull out of all of her finals so far, is on the starting list for the beam final as she bids for a fifth Olympic gold (9.50am)

· The men's semi-finals take place, with Mexico taking on Brazil first up (9am)
· The winner of that first semi-final will face either hosts Japan or Spain (2pm)

· Laura Kenny will look to win a third straight Olympic team pursuit gold medal. Team GB take on United States in their heat (7.44am), with the gold medal race later that day (9.26am)
· Laura's husband and fellow Olympic legend Jason Kenny will also look to continue his huge success in the men's team sprint - an event he has won gold in at every Games since 2008. Team GB will first need to get through the men's qualifying (7.58am), with the gold medal race ending the session (9.44am)

· Pat McCormack will be looking to achieve his dream of Olympic gold when he faces Cuba's Roniel Iglesias (11.05am)

> Today's schedule in full
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