Arsenal v Porto: Gunners ‘where we want to be’ after ending 14-year wait to reach Champions League quarters

Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya saves a penalty against Porto in the Champions League last-16 shootout

On 9 March 2010, Nicklas Bendtner scored a penalty to seal his hat-trick in a 5-0 Arsenal win over Porto in the Champions League, as the Gunners confirmed their place in the quarter-finals by overturning a first-leg deficit.

It has taken 14 years and three days, but Arsenal are back in the Champions League last eight – with Porto, penalties and a second-leg comeback once again in the script.

This time, it was not a penalty scorer who took the headlines but a penalty saver, with David Raya denying Porto twice in a 4-2 shootout victory.

Arsenal had recovered from a last-gasp 1-0 loss in Portugal, with Leandro Trossard’s goal forcing extra time in a tie often high on tension but low on quality.

But when Raya flew to his left to stop Galeno’s penalty, it sparked a release of unbridled joy in Emirates Stadium, nearly a decade and a half in the making.

“It has been 14 years, which is a long time for a club like Arsenal and it shows how difficult it was,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta told TNT Sports.

“We really had to dig in to find the magic moment at the end. We’re starting to create an unbelievable energy in the stadium, we were all pushing to get it done and together we have done it.”

Arsenal’s 2009-10 Champions League campaign marked the end of their status as a European power.

Having dismantled Porto in the last 16, they suffered a similar fate themselves at the hands of Barcelona in the quarter-finals – including a 4-1 second-leg loss in which Lionel Messi scored all four.

With their return to the Champions League quarter-finals coming days after Arsenal went top of the Premier League, there is growing hope the Gunners are re-establishing themselves as a continental force with the mentality to win tough games on the biggest stage.

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‘The result is massive, the fallout is bigger’

“Yes this result itself is massive, but the fallout overall is even bigger,” former Arsenal defender Matthew Upson told BBC 5 Live.

“In the Premier League and in the rest of this competition, there are a lot of positives for Arsenal to take.

“This experience, winning a penalty shootout against tough, wily opponents like Porto and coming through it, they will have gained so much from this match.”

When the elation dies down, this was not a glamour European tie for the ages. There were 74 fouls over the two legs – the most in a Champions League knockout tie since 2015-16.

But Arsenal are through – battered and bruised, but surely better for the experience.

“The experience of being in a penalty shootout at this level, and winning it, is something that the players will remember and take a lot from,” said former Gunners winger Theo Walcott on 5 Live.

“They will know what it takes to win these moments now.

“They were frustrated at times by Porto, but they dealt with it, will understand it and know how not to react to it going forwards.”

After beating Porto in 2010, Arsenal suffered seven exits in the Champions League last 16 in seven consecutive seasons.

That run included some abject humiliations, including their last appearance at this stage in 2017 when they were dumped out 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich.

‘I am so proud of the team’

That was followed by a six-year spell outside of Europe’s premier competition – but the current squad are set on making up for lost time, and restoring Arsenal’s elite standing.

“Obviously it’s a great feeling for me personally, first time in the Champions League and for the club to get into the quarter-finals for the first time in so many years,” Raya told TNT Sports.

“This means everything. You play football for these kind of things and I’m lucky to be playing for Arsenal, to be in the Champions League and to get through to the quarter-finals. We’re just going to enjoy the night.”

While Arsenal are riding high for now, the task is staying there – starting with their next fixture.

In 19 days, after the international break, Arsenal travel to Man City in a Premier League blockbuster. Keeping this good feeling going until then will be key.

“I am buzzing. I am so proud of the team, we showed a lot of character,” Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka told TNT Sports.

“Right now we are top of the Premier League and into the quarter- finals [of the Champions League].

“That gives us a lot of belief that we can go to the Etihad and get a result. These are the games we play football for.”

For Arteta, a manager juggling a Champions League campaign and a domestic title race for the first time, this represents a whole new challenge – but one he is ready for.

“That’s where we want to be,” he said. “We’ve been patient, worked so hard and a lot of people have made good decisions and showed courage in difficult moments. This is where you want to be.”

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