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Arsenal fights back to claim 2-2 first leg draw at Sporting Lisbon

Arsenal earned a potentially season-defining win, pulling off a two-goal fightback against Bournemouth to retain their five-point lead over Manchester City.

Arsenal’s Europa League goals are alive following a 2-2 draw with Sporting Lisbon in a Round of 16 first leg on Thursday in Portugal.

William Saliba staked the Gunners to an early lead but the hosts struck twice before Arsenal found level footing through a Sporting own goal.

The game collected more than 4 expected goals, spread pretty evenly between the two teams as Arsenal took 14 of the game’s 24 shots but needed USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner for four big saves in the draw.

[ MORE: Europa League scores, stats, more ]

The second leg will be played at 4pm ET Thursday, March 16 at the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners sit five points above two-time defending champions Manchester City as they chase their first PL title since 2004, all the while they chase their first European trophy since lifting the 1993-94 Cup Winners’ Cup.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

Ahead of the round of 16 first legs on Thursday, Arsenal are joint-betting favorites to win the Europa League, checking in at +250 alongside fellow PL side Manchester United.

(Betting odds provided by our partner, BetMGM ) BetMGM is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on BetMGM for the first time after clicking our links.

Sporting vs Arsenal player ratings: Stars of the Show

Goncalo Inacio: The 21-year-old goal scorer looks the latest in a long line of star CBs from Portugal.

Bukayo Saka: Buzzed up and down the right but didn’t quite have his finishing boots. On another day...

William Saliba: A very decent goal and not at specific fault for either of Sporting’s tallies.

Marcus Edwards: Ex-Tottenham winger will relish frustrations he heaped on Arsenal’s left flank.

Sporting vs Arsenal player ratings

What’s next?

Arsenal heads to Fulham for a 10am ET Sunday meeting in the Premier League before the second leg hits North London on Thursday.

Lisbon hosts Boavista at 4:30pm ET Sunday.

Follow @NicholasMendola

William Saliba goal video: Gunners take lead in 22'

Goncalo Inacio goal video: Lisbon levels it

Paulinho goal video: Portuguese hosts go in-front

Sporting Lisbon own goal video: 2-2!

How to watch Sporting vs Arsenal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 12:45pm ET ThursdayTV Channel/Stream: Paramount PlusUpdates: Via

Key storylines & star players

Star striker Gabriel Jesus has been out since the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery, but the Brazilian is nearing a return to action — so much so that manager Mikel Arteta wouldn’t go so far as to rule him out during his Wednesday pre-match press conference.

“News on the squad will be tomorrow. We have brought a few players and you will see tomorrow who is available.

“We will try not to rush him back, we will try to make a fair assessment between what he needs and when is comfortable and as well giving the team a boost that it’s going to need in the next few weeks for sure.

“Everything is going well, he needs time as well to get himself that confidence and that physical state that is necessary to compete with a free mind and once he’s free to do that, we will throw him in.”

Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Mohamed Elneny (knock) | QUESTIONABLE: Gabriel Jesus (knee), Leandro Trossard (groin), Eddie Nketiah (undisclosed)

Follow @AndyEdMLS