ukayo Saka says Arsenal’s first-half performance against Villarreal was “horrible” and warned if they start the second leg in a similar fashion, they can forget about reaching the Europa League final.
Both of the hosts’ goals came inside the opening 30 minutes and Arsenal were on the ropes at times during the first half.
Their task was made harder when Dani Ceballos was sent off for a second yellow card just before the hour mark, but they grabbed a vital away goal after Pepe slotted penalty that had been won by Saka.
It means Arsenal can progress to the final of the Europa League if they win the second leg at Emirates Stadium on Thursday 1-0, but Saka has warned his team-mates they must learn from their poor first half in Spain last night.
“I think the team, the way we started was horrible,” he said. “You can’t start a game like this and it’s no surprise we went 2-0 down.
“I think, to be honest, to go to 10 men and react and get a goal back, I think we did really well. So, we leave ourselves with a good chance of going through at the Emirates.
“There are a lot of positives, which all came in the second half. But, like I said, it’s a semi-final, Europa League, and to start the game like this it’s impossible to have a chance of scoring.
“We didn’t create anything, we lost every duel, we were passive and it’s really frustrating to look back on it.
“But I am just happy that in the second half, we picked ourselves up and we got a good chance and we managed to score. So, we have given ourselves a chance at the Emirates.”
Villarreal also finished the game with 10 men after former Watford midfielder Etienne Capoue was sent off 10 minutes before the end for a second yellow card.
It rounded off a frustrating second half for the Spanish side, who at half time had looked on course to take healthy lead back to north London.
Arsenal, however, rallied after the sending-off of Ceballos and Saka believes that should give them heart going into the second leg.
“I definitely think we showed we are better than them, even with 10 men we were dominating them,” he said.
“So, it is just up to us. It is always up to us. I think we have a team full of quality players and, when we play properly, we can beat anyone and we showed that today.
“For me, I think I always try my best but it’s not about me. These big semi-finals, I can’t win the game by myself, nobody can win a game by themselves.”
Arteta admitted afterwards he was relieved to be in the tie still too, particularly after going behind inside five minutes.
“After the story of the game, I think we have to take it because in the tie we are alive,” he said.
“And in the circumstances that developed during the game, it put the game and the tie in real danger at some stages.”