LONDON • The fearful hush that descended over the Emirates Stadium when Danny Welbeck landed in excruciating pain never really lifted on a psychologically challenging night for Arsenal.
The cold statistics of Thursday's Group E match were favourable for the home side, who managed to qualify for the Europa League knockout stage with two games to spare and extend their undefeated sequence to 15 matches after a goal-less draw with Sporting Lisbon.
But this was not a game that will be remembered with fondness, because the fate of Welbeck dominated.
The forward was stretchered off and all the signs suggest he faces another long spell of rehabilitation - his third major injury since moving to Arsenal from Manchester United in 2014.
Gunners manager Unai Emery confirmed that the England international had broken his ankle and, according to the Mirror, he is set to miss the rest of the season.
"He has been taken to hospital. We are going to wait. The worst news tonight are these injuries - serious injury. Danny was working well," the Spaniard, whose side also lost defender Stephan Lichtsteiner to a hamstring pull, told reporters.
"His injury was hard for the mentality of the players because they looked at the injury. But, when you are playing football in competitive matches, it can happen."
While Welbeck, 27, has twice come back from two separate knee injuries, which curtailed his appearances from 2015-17, the timing of this ankle break is a huge setback with his Arsenal contract set to run out in the summer and no talks over an extension.
His fellow players were equally shocked at the seriousness of his injury and Sporting captain Nani, who played with Welbeck at United, offered his well-wishes, saying: "I feel very sorry for him, he is a great person. I just want him to recover well."
Teammates Mesut Ozil, Matteo Guendouzi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan also tweeted heartfelt messages as did former Arsenal midfielder Santi Carzola, and pundits Gary Neville and Danny Murphy.
In Belarus, Chelsea are still the only unbeaten team in all competitions across the top-five European leagues after a 1-0 victory over Bate Borisov, which secured them a place in the round of 32 in the Europa League.
France striker Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute for his first club goal since May 6, having gone 794 minutes without scoring.
The Blues now need one more point to top Group L and manager Maurizio Sarri hailed Giroud's contribution despite declaring his unhappiness at his side's "slow and horizontal play" in the first half.
"We didn't play very well... but, for us, he's very important and useful," the Italian told reporters.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON