Arse­nal Progress De­spite Sport­ing Stale­mate

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LON­DON (Dis­patches) - Arse­nal booked a place in the Europa League knock­out stage and ex­tended their un­beaten run to 15 matches de­spite a 0-0 draw with Sport­ing Lis­bon on Thurs­day, while Olivier Giroud’s first goal of the sea­son sent Chelsea through.

But Arse­nal striker Danny Wel­beck, given a rare start just hours af­ter be­ing named in Gareth South­gate’s Eng­land squad, had to be stretchered down the tun­nel with what looked a nasty an­kle in­jury in the first half.

Arse­nal mid­field­ers Mat­teo Guen­douzi and Aaron Ram­sey were both vis­i­bly upset af­ter Wel­beck, who is out of con­tract at the end of the cam­paign, went down af­ter jump­ing to win a header.

“It is men­tally chal­leng­ing (play­ing af­ter a team­mate is in­jured) but some­times it comes with the game, and Danny has had a lot of in­juries,” winger Alex Iwobi told BT Sport.

“We wish him the best and will keep on en­cour­ag­ing and mo­ti­vat­ing him to get back.”

Unai Emery’s Gun­ners were the bet­ter side for long pe­ri­ods at the Emi­rates against a team who have al­ready had three dif­fer­ent man­agers this term, but were forced to set­tle for a point de­spite Sport­ing be­ing re­duced to 10 men late on when for­mer Barcelona cen­tre-back Jeremy Mathieu was sent off.

But Arse­nal did se­cure a last-32 spot re­gard­less, as Vorskla Poltava lost 1-0 at home to Az­eri out­fit Qarabag in the other Group E game.

Chelsea made it four wins from four matches in Group L by edg­ing out a spir­ited BATE Borisov 1-0 in Be­larus.

Giroud ended his 11-game goal drought this sea­son by giv­ing Chelsea a 53rd-minute lead, and the Pre­mier League gi­ants held on de­spite BATE strik­ing the wood­work three times in the match.

“I was hop­ing to score soon be­cause I came back late from the World Cup and I was lack­ing maybe a bit of ef­fi­ciency and luck but you al­ways need to keep work­ing hard and keep the faith and that’s what hap­pened tonight,” France striker Giroud told BT Sport.

The Lon­don­ers moved six points clear of Hun­gar­i­ans Vidi at the top of the group and have not tasted de­feat in 17 matches since los­ing the Com­mu­nity Shield to Manch­ester City in Au­gust.

Steven Ger­rard’s Rangers saw their 11-game un­beaten run in this year’s Europa League come to a dra­matic end as they threw away the lead three times in a 4-3 de­feat at Spar­tak Moscow.

Both sides were the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of com­i­cal own goals in a crazy first half which ended with Glenn Mid­dle­ton putting the Scots 3-2 ahead, but Luiz Adri­ano and Sofi­ane Hanni both scored in the space of 71 sec­onds to snatch Spar­tak vic­tory.

Rangers are now level on points with Spar­tak in an in­cred­i­bly tight Group G, one point be­hind lead­ers Vil­lar­real af­ter the Spaniards’ goal­less draw with Rapid Vi­enna in Aus­tria.

“For me, foot­ball is about lev­els and, if you don’t de­fend prop­erly and you don’t do the ba­sics well enough, high-level play­ers and high-level teams nor­mally pun­ish you and that was the case tonight,” Ger­rard told the Rangers web­site.

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