Manager Arsene Wenger will not be given a last chance to lift silverware with Arsenal after they were beaten 2-1 on aggregate by Atletico Madrid in the Europa League semi-final.
With the score 1-1 from the first leg, former Chelsea striker Diego Costa returned to the Atletico side to haunt the Gunners again and it was his composed chip on the brink of half-time which ended their European hopes.
Antoine Griezmann slipped the crucial pass through to Costa after coming close with a powerful strike from a tight angle.
Arsenal were crestfallen going into the break but almost responded within minutes of the restart when Aaron Ramsey found himself through on goal. His touch let him down and the chance was wasted – as were a number of opportunities for the visitors throughout the second half.
A bad night was made worse for Arsenal when captain Laurent Koscielny was carried off with an Achilles injury, which may rule the Frenchman out of this summer’s World Cup.
Two-time champions Atletico will now face Marseille in their third Europa League final in eight years in Lyon on 16 May.
Defeat for Arsenal means they will miss out on Champions League football for the second straight season.
Wenger, who will leave the Gunners at the end of the season after 22 years in charge, has never won a European trophy with the club.
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Return of an old demon
There was a sense of inevitability when Costa’s chipped effort hit the back of the net.
The Spaniard caused the Gunners many problems during his time at Chelsea – most notably in September 2015 when he was involved in the sending off of two Arsenal players.
He was a threat from the off in Madrid, shrugging off a weak challenge from Nacho Monreal to create an opening which he should have buried.
Costa lacked composure in his first attempt, lashing the ball over the bar, but produced the goods later in the half.
His link-up play with Griezmann was a threat throughout and Arsenal were susceptible on the counter-attack as they pushed for a goal in the second half.
Costa came close to turning provider for his strike partner but Calum Chambers was on hand to block Griezmann’s effort.
He was typically feisty too – getting into a spat with Shkodran Mustafi and receiving a yellow card for it.
But Arsenal were ultimately made to suffer for their missed chances and conceding a late away goal in the first leg, having played against 10 men for 80 minutes at the Emirates and only scoring once from 28 shots in a game they totally dominated.
In Madrid, Alexandre Lacazette hesitated when he was played in by Aaron Ramsey in the first half and Monreal’s poor control let him down shortly afterwards.
Granit Xhaka’s long-range effort was palmed away by Jan Oblak and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s volley skimmed the top netting.
Diego Godin blocked everything that came his way, as Mesut Ozil, Ramsey and Hector Bellerin failed to find a breakthrough from wide positions.
|Arsenal’s results in the 2017-18 Europa League|
|Arsenal 3-1 Cologne (group stages)||Bate Borisov 2-4 Arsenal (group stages)|
|Red Star Belgrade 0-1 Arsenal (group stages)||Arsenal 0-0 Red Star Belgrade (group stages)|
|Cologne 1-0 Arsenal (group stages)||Arsenal 6-0 Bate Borisov (group stages)|
|Ostersunds FK 0-3 Arsenal (last 32 first leg)||Arsenal 1-2 Ostersunds FK (last 32 second leg)|
|AC Milan 0-2 Arsenal (last 16 first leg)||Arsenal 3-1 AC Milan (last 16 second leg)|
|Arsenal 4-1 CSKA Moscow (quarter-final first leg)||CSKA Moscow 2-2 Arsenal (quarter-final second leg)|
|Arsenal 1-1 Atletico Madrid (semi-final first leg)||Atletico Madrid 1-0 Arsenal (semi-final second leg)|
Wenger’s ‘love story’ won’t have fairytale ending
Wenger said he wanted to finish his “love story with Arsenal well” before the second leg but he has been denied the fairytale ending he so craved after losing his 250th European game in charge of Arsenal.
Despite winning three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups with the Gunners, he has only reached two European finals in 21 seasons of continental competition with the Gunners.
They lost to Galatasaray on penalties in the 2000 Uefa Cup final and were beaten 2-1 by Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final.
The Frenchman will end his Arsenal tenure at Huddersfield in the final league game of the season on 13 May.
Atletico defence stands firm – the best of the stats
- Atletico Madrid have qualified for the final of the Europa League for the third time; a joint-high alongside Sevilla – and they have gone on to win the competition in each of their previous two final appearances (in 2009-10 and 2011-12).
- Diego Simeone’s side have now reached the final of a major European competition in three of the past five campaigns (previously the Champions League in 2013-14 and 2015-16).
- After progressing from their first six semi-final ties in European competition, Arsenal have now been eliminated in each of the last two (also 2008-09 v Manchester United in the Champions League).
- Diego Costa has scored four goals in seven appearances against Arsenal in all competitions, including netting in each of his past two games against them.
- This was just the second time in their past 18 European away games that Arsenal have failed to score, with the other occasion being at Cologne last November (0-1).
- The Gunners haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of their past eight games in all competitions; their longest run without one since December 2016 (a run of 12 games).
- For Atletico, this was their 32nd clean sheet of the season in all competitions; the most of any team in the top five European Leagues.
Man of the match – Antoine Griezmann
Arsenal host Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday in Wenger’s final home game (16:30 BST). Atletico Madrid also return to league action on Sunday when they welcome Espanyol (15:15 BST).