Tomas Holes earns Slavia Prague precious draw at Arsenal

Tomas holes heads a stoppage-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals.

Time to celebrate: Slavia Prague's Tomas Holes (left) celebrates after scoring in the 93rd minute.   -  AP

Slavia Prague boosted its hopes of a first European semifinal since 1996 as Tomas Holes headed a stoppage-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Arsenal in the first leg of its Europa League quarterfinal on Thursday.

MATCH CENTRE

It looked as though substitute Nicolas Pepe's 86th-minute effort had given the host a narrow advantage to take to the Czech Republic for next week's second leg. But defender Holes forced a header past Bernd Leno from a corner in the 93rd minute to deflate Arsenal and keep the tie balanced on a knife edge.

An often subdued tie was punctuated by good chances for both sides with Arsenal guilty of wasteful finishing.

Bukayo Saka curled an effort wide in the first half while Willian and Alexandre Lacazette were both denied by the woodwork for Mikel Arteta's side after the break.

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Slavia, which has beaten Leicester City and Rangers en route to the quarterfinals, had its moments too and substitute Petr Sevcik squandered a good chance to put it ahead while Lukas Provod had a shot turned against the woodwork seconds before Holes pounced to equalise.

It was a disappointing night for Arsenal whose season rests on going all the way in the Europa League. Although it created plenty of chances, it looked fragile and lacked intensity until captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, surprisingly left on the bench, and Pepe came on.

Arteta, who said he was shocked by his side's meek defeat by Liverpool at the weekend, looked aghast at the final whistle.

“The game was under control, we got the goal that we wanted, but then we played two or three balls in areas that we should not do and we put ourselves on the back foot,” he said.

“Obviously (the late goal) changes the feeling.”

Nicolas Pepe (left) celebrates after scoring Arsenal's goal. - AP

 

The last time Slavia Prague visited Arsenal it lost 7-0 in a 2007 Champions League tie but it provided far more resistance this time. Peter Olayinka had the first shot on target while Provod flashed a drive over the bar, although Arsenal should have gone in front when Saka was played in by Rob Holding but wastefully curled his shot wide of the post.

Saka was tripped just outside the area after outpacing the Slavia defence early in the second half and from the resulting free kick Willian found the outside of the upright. After a period of Slavia possession Arsenal broke forward and Lacazette had the freedom of the pitch to run into, but with only keeper Ondrej Kolar to beat he hoisted his shot against the crossbar when it looked easier to score.

Lacazette scooped another chance over before Arteta sent on Pepe, Aubameyang and Mohamed Elneny in the 76th minute and it almost paid dividends but Aubameyang failed to finish from in front of goal. Aubameyang played the pass that sent Pepe away and he outpaced the Czech defence before delicately clipping the ball beyond Kolar.

Arsenal celebrated hard but it was Slavia's players who were joyous at the full-time whistle after earning a precious draw for the Czech champion.