Cape Times

Arteta hails ‘magic night’ as Arsenal fuel EPL title bid


ARSENAL’S penalty shootout victory against Porto on Tuesday night not only snapped their Champions League last-16 jinx, but could also fuel their belief as they try to hold off Liverpool and Manchester City in the English league title race.

David Raya’s two penalty saves ensured Arsenal reached the quarter-finals for the first time in 14 years after a tense tie against the two-time European champions ended 1-1 on aggregate.

It maintained the momentum that Mikel Arteta’s squad have built up with eight successive Premier League victories, and keeps them chasing silverware on two fronts.

As the emotion poured out inside the Emirates Stadium, it felt like a psychologi­cal turning point for Arsenal as they ended a run of seven successive last-16 exits in the Champions League.

With no FA Cup involvemen­t this weekend and then the internatio­nal break, Arsenal will not play again until March 31, when they go to Manchester City in a crunch title clash.

But after overcoming a crafty Porto side, they will now head to City with renewed belief.

“A magic night. We expected a really tough opponent. It’s very difficult to generate momentum, and that’s credit to (Porto),” Arteta told reporters.

“It’s a huge experience for us. We had to do it as well through penalties. Credit to (goalkeeper) David (Raya), who had some difficult moments to start – but showed incredible determinat­ion, and stood up and got rewarded.

“The energy that it brings amongst the squad, amongst the club – it’s really powerful.

“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.

“We absolutely love (the fans), the energy they gave, how positive they were, how they contribute­d.

“They made us win – it’s as simple as that.”

Forward Bukayo Saka said the result sets Arsenal up perfectly for the rest of the season.

“Right now, we’re top of the league and we’re into the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and we’re going into the internatio­nal break,” the England internatio­nal said.

“This result gives us a lot of momentum, a lot of belief that we can go to the Etihad and get a good result.”

Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown said Arsenal’s progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League will be a huge confidence boost in the run-in.

“It would have been a downer if they had lost this tonight and gone into the City game. Of course they are out of the FA Cup, but now this keeps it ticking along beautifull­y,” he said.

“The players grow from it... There’s a lot of confidence now.”

Arsenal will discover their quarter-final opponents tomorrow when they will join the likes of City, Paris St Germain, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Barcelona in the draw.

Asked about the prospect of going one better than their sole final appearance in 2006, Arteta said: “I think it’s still very far. Now I’m going to sit at home, I’m going to look at the other teams we have to play and start another big mountain to climb.”

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