Emery wary of Valencia's recovery potential in 2nd leg

Alexandre Lacazette watches as Valencia goalkeeper Neto is unable to prevent the striker's header from crossing the line to give Arsenal the lead. The English side travel to Spain next week with a 3-1 aggregate lead. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Alexandre Lacazette watches as Valencia goalkeeper Neto is unable to prevent the striker's header from crossing the line to give Arsenal the lead. The English side travel to Spain next week with a 3-1 aggregate lead. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Given Arsenal's abysmal away form this term, with just one clean sheet on the road in the Premier League, it is understandable why Unai Emery is remaining notably cagey about reaching the Europa League final on May 29 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Despite beating Valencia 3-1 in the first leg of their semi-final on Thursday, the Gunners manager admitted that the tie is still very much up for grabs as "the second leg is going to be very difficult and maybe different".

Alexandre Lacazette's brace and an added-time strike from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang earned the hosts the advantage after Mouctar Diakhaby had given the Spanish LaLiga side an early lead.

But, as a former coach of Valencia, which is owned by Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, Emery is keenly aware of the hostile environment his side will have to contend with in the reverse fixture at the Mestalla next Thursday.

The Spaniard said: "It's a good result, but I consider it 50-50 in this one. They are going to feel strong with their supporters there.

"Playing there after this result, the atmosphere is going to be a very, very tough against us. That's normal. They are one team with a habit of playing semi-finals and also with the possibility to come back from this result."

And Valencia coach Marcelino, whose side have never lost at home to the Gunners in three previous meetings, agreed that "at the Mestalla, we can hurt them".

The Spaniard said: "I don't think any Valencia fan will think they were particularly stronger than us. We are excited and optimistic. If we have our fans behind us and get things right, we can win next week.

"The result has been excessive. They have been very decisive. They had more success and effectiveness, we hope to have that little bit of luck and success in the return.

"The tie is not decided and, with our people, we are going to make things difficult for Arsenal.

"It (the result) puts us in a more complicated situation, but in no case takes away from our minds that we can go to the final. This helps us to believe in ourselves and to believe that we can win."

In Germany, Chelsea set a Europa League record of 16 successive matches unbeaten after a 1-1 first-leg semi-final draw at Eintracht Frankfurt, with a Pedro equaliser cancelling out Luka Jovic's opener.

While Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri's decision to name Eden Hazard on the bench raised eyebrows, the Blues dominated the second half, with David Luiz unlucky not to get the second goal after rattling the crossbar from a free kick.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2019, with the headline 'Emery wary of Valencia's recovery potential in 2nd leg'. Print Edition | Subscribe