Rennes rallied from an early deficit to beat 10-man Arsenal 3-1 in the first leg of the Europa League last 16 on Thursday, a result that spoiled goalkeeper Petr Cech’s return to the French city where he spent two seasons.
Arsenal took the lead through Alex Iwobi after just four minutes but the game turned when Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off late in the first half and Rennes equalized from the resulting free kick.
The 36-year-old Cech, who is retiring at the end of this season, made some great saves against the attack-minded home side but couldn’t do anything to prevent Rennes from building a massive advantage ahead of next week’s return leg at the Emirates.
Rennes was the first foreign club for Cech, who moved there from Sparta Prague in 2002 before joining Chelsea in the Premier League two years later.
There was another surprise in Spain where Slavia Prague held five-time Europa League champion Sevilla to a 2-2 draw.
High-scoring Eintracht Frankfurt was held to a 0-0 draw at home by Inter Milan.
Elsewhere, Villarreal struck twice in the second half to earn a 3-1 away win at Zenit St. Petersburg, while Dinamo Zagreb beat Benfica 1-0 at home.
Chelsea played Dynamo Kiev later Thursday, while Napoli hosted Salzburg and Valencia played Krasnodar.
The return games take place on March 14.
Here’s a look at Thursday’s games:
Emery made four changes to the starting lineup from Saturday’s 1-1 draw in a derby with Tottenham. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took the place of suspended striker Alexandre Lacazette to start alongside playmaker Mesut Ozil, midfielder Lucas Torreira and Cech.
It all started well for Arsenal.
Just four minutes into the game, Iwobi danced around his marker on the left side of the box before curling the ball inside the far post of goalkeeper Tomas Koubek with what looked like an attempted cross.
Arsenal was reduced to 10 men four minutes before halftime after Sokratis picked his second yellow card, and Rennes immediately made the most of the subsequent free kick. Benjamin Bourigeaud saw his attempt blocked by the defensive wall before unleashing an unstoppable drive on the rebound.
After Nacho Monreal’s own goal in the 65th, Ismaila Sarr completed a dominant performance by Rennes, heading home from close range two minutes from time.
SEVILLA SET BACK
Wissam Ben Yedder was on target even earlier than Iwobi, punishing Slavia Prague’s poor defending within the opening minute to give Sevilla an early lead.
It was the seventh goal for the forward in the Europa League this season, joining Salzburg’s Munas Dabbur atop the scoring table.
The hosts looked dominant but Miroslav Stoch equalized for Slavia with a deflected shot from the edge of the area 25 minutes later.
Sevilla quickly re-established the lead after just three minutes. Munir El Haddadi netted with a volley from a cornerk, his first goal since his transfer from Barcelona in January.
But the teams were level again before the interval with Alex Kral scoring from another corner, sending the ball into the net with his shoulder.
Eintracht had been the highest-scoring team in the competition so far, but Inter’s defense was too difficult to crack for the German side. It even needed goalkeeper Kevin Trapp to save Marcelo Brozovic’s penalty in the first half to salvage the draw.
In Zagreb, forward Bruno Petkovic secured the first-leg win for Dinamo, converting from the spot in the first half.
Zenit’s Sardar Azmoun canceled out Villarreal’s opening goal in the first half but the Spanish team scored through Manu Morlanes and Gerard Morenohit in the second half to take firm control ahead of the return leg.