After a powerful header from a corner taken by Portuguese midfielder Fabio Vieira, France’s William Saliba gave the Premier League’s top team the lead.
Nevertheless, Goncalo Inacio scored the equalizer when Matt Turner hesitated following a corner by England winger Marcus Edwards, cutting the lead of Arsenal short after just 12 minutes.
Sporting had taken the lead in a thrilling match in the Portuguese capital thanks to a goal from Paulinho, but Arsenal responded with an own goal from Japan player Hidemasa Morita.
In a match that flowed freely, both teams generated a lot of opportunities.
After the score was tied at one, Turner stopped former Tottenham player Edwards, and Paulinho missed a fantastic opportunity to make it 3-1 to the home team before Morita’s wild deflection made it 2-2.
Vieira’s header was stopped by Antonio Adan, denying Arsenal the chance to take the lead back to Emirates Stadium for the second leg on Thursday (20:00 GMT).
Reaction to the Sporting Lisbon-Arsenal match and other European games on Thursday
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Arteta must strike a balance as Arsenal pursues trophies.
Mikel Arteta makes it plain that he views the Europa League as something worth winning rather than a side-focus from Arsenal’s pursuit of its first Premier League championship since 2003–04.
Gabriel Martinelli, Arsenal’s top scorer in the Premier League, and Bukayo Saka were among the important players he started in Portugal despite making six changes ahead of Sunday’s London derby at Fulham (14:00).
In the return leg against Sporting in seven days, everything is on the line, but Arteta is aware that his team will need to strengthen their defense if they are to proceed to the quarterfinals against opponents who began the season in the Champions League.
Jakub Kiwior of Poland made his first appearance for Arsenal since joining from Serie A club Spezia in January for a reported £17.6 million. Turner, who took the place of first-choice keeper Aaron Ramsdale, had a mixed game.
The Gunners were sloppy at times, having given up four goals in only two games, but they came back from being down to tie the game and remain a genuine danger moving ahead.
Beginning the second half, Martinelli attempted to clip the ball over the goalkeeper but was unsuccessful. Later, the Brazil forward appeared to be on his way to a goal after a brilliant solo run but was stopped by a well timed challenge from Jeremiah Saint Juste.
The Gunners’ games are starting to come thick and fast, and Arteta is aware that he must strike a delicate balance as his team competes for both domestic and European honors.